Giant hogweed warning: What happens if you touch Giant hogweed?

Giant hogweed: Plant is a huge hazard to children says gardener

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Weeds and garden pests will invade gardens as the weather heats up this year. During June and July, gardeners will work hard to deter hungry insects and invasive plants from their carefully cultivated green spaces. But they shouldn’t handle every organic threat in their gardens, as some could bite back.

What happens if you touch giant hogweed?

Giant hogweed is unlike most other weeds people find in their gardens, and it requires specialist care.

The weeds sprout as a tall, thick-stemmed network of white canopies resembling cow parsley.

They can grow up to ten feet (three metres) in height, and although their blooms may seem pretty, they hide a dangerous defence mechanism.

Giant hogweed secretes a dangerous sap from its stems both while rooted and extracted.

The sap can cause severe burns and skin damage when applied to human skin.

The most common ailment caused by the sap is blistering at the site of contact.

Reactions can develop phytophotodermatitis and continue to impact people’s quality of life for years after their brush with the weed.

Contact with giant hogweed sap may cause the following symptoms:

  • Burning
  • Blistering skin
  • Itching and stinging
  • Local scarring lasting up to four months
  • Long-term sunlight sensitivity

If the sap makes contact with people’s eyes, it can cause blindness.

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How to treat giant hogweed burns

Hogweed sap’s “phototoxic” nature means it also strips some of the skin’s natural protection from sunlight.

As such, on top of chemical burns, giant hogweed victims may find their skin unnaturally sensitive to the summer sun.

General advice for people with giant hogweed sap burns is to keep the affected area out of the Sun.

Otherwise, the NHS urges people to clean the area as soon as possible.

A low acidity mixture of cold water and soap will help purge the sap without causing more damage.

Anyone experiencing severe symptoms following contact with giant hogweed sap should seek immediate medical advice.

Garden services advise anyone who spots giant hogweed in the garden or elsewhere to avoid it and call the appropriate authorities for specialist extraction.

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