I was once again saddened to see another news story of people being injured by contact with Giant Hogweed two boys from Bolton were playing in a clump of Giant Hogweed and obviously got covered in sap and sustained what look to be quite extensive and will be very painful injuries. The sensitivity to sunlight that results from this exposure will last for some time possibly years and the boys may go on to develop very noticeable scars in the areas of these burns.
I was talking to a client on a site recently and he knew of a worker who had been cutting back vegetation with a strimmer and had unknowingly gone through a stand of Giant Hogweed. This operative was lucky not to be blinded but the description of his injuries was horrific. It seems like every year about this time we get a few incidents like this and it’s so unnecessary.
Increasingly people are aware of Japanese Knotweed and that’s great, we’re doing something right because it’s a big problem and awareness is half the battle but for my money education about Giant Hogweed is far more crucial. I tell this to as many people as I can, and I get mocked by my family and friends for this behaviour but I’d rather be laughed at than see someone I know get hurt because they were unaware of the risks.
To keep yourself safe this is what you need to know; It’s the sap which is harmful so physical contact with the sap is to be avoided. Sap is released when the plant tissue is damaged so cutting breaking or otherwise damaging the plant will release sap. It is also released from the fine hairs (bristles) on the leaf and stem of the plant. Initial exposure to the sap is completely painless, the reaction and injury is caused by making your skin very sensitive to light which is then damaged by ultraviolet light, the correct term is Phytophotodermatitis. So you will only notice the effects 15-30mins after exposure by which time it’s too late. The sap can soak through your clothing and transfer to your skin so the best course of action is to avoid contact with the plant altogether. If you have to be in contact with the plant then face / eye protection is essential and wear impermeable gloves, boots and oversuit. If you think that you have come into contact with Giant Hogweed sap then IMMEDIATELY wash the affected area with soap and water and keep it out of sunlight for at least 48 hours. If you’ve definitely been exposed to sap or after washing and staying out of the sun reactions occur anyway then seek medical attention immediately. It’s still going to hurt but the sooner you get treatment the less it will hurt and the better your recovery will be.
If you want to know more or think you’ve encountered Giant Hogweed just give us a call on 0131 538 8456.
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