UK residents suffer a second round of exposure to the Giant Hogweed plant.
Louise McHugh, from Salford, went hiking with her boyfriend on Sunday July 5th. They stopped to take a break on the bank of the River Irwell but realized they didn’t bring any picnic blanket to lie down on. So they grabbed some leaves to rest on instead. Unfortunately for Louise, the leaves were from a nearby *Giant Hogweed plant. Her boyfriend had his skin covered enough that he wasn’t affected, but Louise had the majority of her back exposed and the next day started experiencing symptoms. By Monday evening her rash had turned into huge blisters. McHugh went to a nearby walk in clinic and was diagnosed with severe burns resulting from contact with the giant hogweed. The 24 year old commented on her injuries:
“It looked really angry because of the blisters, today it has gone down but the blisters are still there. You can feel little twinges because it is burning, you can feel stinging, burning and twinging. At first it doesn’t really itch, it is more like a burn then a sting. When it flared up on Monday night it just felt really warm, my boyfriend then noticed the rash.”
The best tool you can use against suffering similar injuries is awareness. McHugh commented on the plant:
“These hogweed plants, they have a white flower that I have noticed and they are everywhere. They are quite common. You think you would not have anything like that over here, you would think it would be in a tropical country or something. If there are plants like that they need to be getting rid of them.”
Luckily, they are very large plants so once you know what they look like, they’re fairly easy to avoid. Louise injuries are now being treated with steroidal creams.
McHugh is not the first reported incident. Saturday July 4th, there were five children who suffered injuries in Manchester. Four boys were played in Moses Gate Country Park (a day before McHugh’s incident) and suffered similar burns. Conor Knott (13) and Reid Daley (13) were two of the boys involved. The extent of these boys’ injuries landed them in the hospital. Reid was in and out of the Royal Bolton Hospital and Conor was kept there over night.
Reid’s stepdad, Mathew Cocklin, stated:
“Since Tuesday morning he has had to take eight blister tablets in one go, ibuprofen and pain killers. He said ‘I want to die, stop this pain from hurting’.”
Conor’s aunt, Rachel Brooks, stated:
“His burns are all down his arms and all down his legs. They don’t seem to be clearing up.”
Also injured on Saturday was seven year old Annie Challinor. She was hiking with her family when her arm brushed a giant hogweed plant. Her mother, Rebecca, said:
“Nothing happened at all on the Saturday, no sting, nothing. It was Sunday I noticed a long line on her shoulder and back but I thought it was a bramble scratch. Then on Monday they’d turned into blisters, by that point she’d also got a high temperature and was in significant pain. She was very upset by the blisters, they looked hot and angry, and she cried a lot.”
Spokespeople from local areas apologized for the unfortunate accidents and made promises to remove the plants.
Bolton spokesperson stated:
“We were very sorry to hear of the injuries to four children caused by giant hogweed in Moses Gate Country Park. Our policy, which follows the DEFRA code of practice, is to immediately treat all instances of giant hogweed on our land to remove its presence. As soon as we were made aware of this plant by one of the parents of the children, we began treatment to remove it. We will continue to remove any giant hogweed as soon as it is reported, and would like to encourage the public to report any instances of what they believe to be giant hogweed on council land to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01204 334067.”
Salford spokesperson said:
“We are very sorry to hear about this little girl’s injury. This happened outside Clifton Country park on land owned by United Utilities which we have no control over. However we have made them aware of the incident and have asked that they join us in tackling the Giant Hogweed. Giant Hogweed was introduced to Britain as an ornamental plant by Victorian gardeners but is incredibly invasive and has spread widely across the countryside. It is very, very difficult to control and eradicate but Salford City Council removes or sprays all accessible Giant Hogweed in Clifton Country park. We have also put up warning signs in the park advising people of the dangers of Giant Hogweed.”
*Giant Hogweed is a plant that belongs to the carrot family. It can grow up to five meters tall and has white flowers. The sap of the plant contains photo-sensitising furanocoumarins chemicals which remove the body’s’ protection against UV light, thus resulting in burns. While the burns can clear up in a few weeks, it can take the skin years to regain protection against UV rays. Also, if the sap gets in contact with your eyes it can cause blindness. The blisters usually form within 48 hours but can leave long lasting scars. Medical professionals say if you know you’ve come into contact with the plant you should cover the area and flush with soap and water.