We have long enjoyed the Virginia Creeper that grows all around our house. The leaves turn a stunning red in the fall. The plant bears gorgeous blue berries which the birds seem to enjoy. It is just quite pretty. We have so much growing out back that it has climbed, canopy style, up and around our back patio. The girls collect and play with the berries, have for years. They know not to eat the berries (not exactly poisonous, but also not great) and we keep an eye on them anyway.
Well a few weeks ago we came inside from playing in the backyard. The girls had been making stew in a bucket for the birds. We washed up, had dinner, and all was well until Cordelia started suddenly screaming that her hand was burning. We looked at it and it was bright red and hot to the touch. We washed it thoroughly and gave her an anti-histimine as we assumed it was some sort of allergic reaction. We covered all of the possible sources for the reaction and finally settled on the new soap I had purchased---it was the only out of the ordinary thing that had happened to her hands. It was kind of surprising as the soap was all natural and gentle. I put the soap out of her reach, leaving another bar for her use. All was well.
Two weeks later the girls were out front, squashing Virginia Creeper leaves while Eric unloaded a pallet with boxes of his books (for sale here, US only for now). I was teaching a class and was not present for the event, but Eric said Elise started screaming in pain from a red patch on her palms. He washed her hands thoroughly, but it was really not fine until the next day.
It was clear that the Virginia Creeper is to blame. I did some research and found that the sap contains oxalate crystals which can irritate the skin of some people. Who knows why this started causing a reaction now, after years of exposure? Anyway, lesson learned. The girls now steer clear of the Creeper. Consider this your Virginia Creeper PSA. While it is gorgeous and prolific you must look with your eyes and not your hands.