First, it was a little girl who woke with an unexplained line on her body, then four boys in her area experienced the same thing. Approximately 48 hours after the first signs appeared, the children were each writhing in burning “angry” pain, covered in persistent blisters that grew in size and number. The cause of the heinous skin condition is all tied back to one common culprit you’ve probably walked right by.
The victims all have one thing in common. Hours before developing severe blisters all over their bodies, they had been playing outside. Although this particular occurrence happened in Manchester, England, it commonly occurs in the U.S. as the pesky plant that caused it is highly prevalent in at least 11 states. But before it was known what it was, the children’s symptoms baffled physicians, who had no idea what was causing such adverse reactions.
After some investigation, it was discovered that the children had each come in contact with hogweed, which many people have probably seen but didn’t know what it was called or the strange effect it can have on the body simply by brushing past it. The tall leafy bush with its pretty white blooms bursting out of the top carries a chemical called photosensitizing furanocoumarins. When it comes in contact with your skin, it makes the individual extremely sensitive to sunlight, which they don’t realize until it’s too late. Essentially, it’s as though the victim no longer has a protective barrier and gets the worst case of a sunburn known to man.
Two of the 13-year-old boys from the U.K. that had come into contact with the plant in a park, Conor Knott and Reid Daley, had suffered such severe burning and blistering from the jagged leaves that they were sent to the hospital. The utter agony of their skin, feeling as though it was perpetually on fire, was to such an extent that a heavy dose of painkillers around the clock couldn’t touch it, according to the Manchester Evening News.
“It starts like a red rash, like if you slap someone quite hard it goes bright red and slightly raised up and within 48 hours blisters start to appear,” Daley’s stepfather Mathew Cocklin explained.
Unfortunately, the condition is extremely easy to get, but not to get rid of. The severe skin damage caused by hogweed can take up to seven years to completely heal. In the meantime, the victims have to be vigilant about protecting themselves from sunlight by covering up completely or avoiding the sun completely.
Here in America, the toxic plant mainly grows in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Experts warn to not try and mow it down if it’s found on your property, advising to leave the dangerous job to a professional trained in removing it, CBS News reported.
While there are always going to be unknown dangers that lurk in the outdoors, arming yourself with awareness of what this plant looks like is the key to staying safe. Now that you know what it is and where it can be found, avoid it and go outside and have fun.