The plant branded ‘the most dangerous in Britain’ has crossed the Irish sea, leaving a teenager in such agony that he struggled to walk and needed morphine.
Jayden Channon, from County Tipperary, was exposed to the hated giant hogweed while gardening at a neighbour’s house in Lisronagh.
Unaware of the danger, he cut it down, leaving his arms, legs and neck defenceless against the sun when its sap got on his skin.
Soon after, his flesh broke out in agonising blisters, putting the 14-year-old in hospital for three days and badly scarred.
His grandmother, Annemarie Channon, said: ‘He was just doing a bit of tidying up in the garden and he was using the strimmer.
Jayden Channon, from County Tipperary, was exposed to the hated giant hogweed while gardening at a neighbour’s house in Lisronagh
Unaware of the danger, he cut it down, leaving his arms, legs and neck defenceless against the sun when its sap got on his skin
‘Obviously he didn’t realise the danger, he didn’t even know what it was really.
‘When he came home that evening, I looked at him and thought “Jesus, Jayden, you should’ve worn your long pants and top because you look like you got all scratched”.
‘When he got up the following morning the rash had spread rapidly, across his hands, legs and neck.
‘The next day the rash had completely turned into these huge blisters.’
At Tipperary University Hospital in Clonmel, Jayden showed the doctors pictures of what he had been cutting – and discovered it was giant hogweed.
Annemarie thinks he had a combination of second and third-degree burns.
She continued: ‘He was in chronic pain, to the extent that they put him on morphine for one of the days at the hospital.
‘Because of the blisters he couldn’t really walk up and down the stairs and found everything so difficult.
Giant hogweed is an invasive species which isn’t native to the UK and is frequently confused with cow parsley
The danger of the giant hogweed is its sap, which stops the skin protecting itself against the sun’s rays, leading to gruesome burns
‘He had to hold on to my shoulder walking along the hospital corridor to the bathroom, because on the backs of his knees he had blisters.
‘I was shocked at the damage it caused – really shocked. I wouldn’t think a plant could do such damage.’
The danger of the giant hogweed is its sap, which stops the skin protecting itself against the sun’s rays, leading to gruesome burns.
And to make matters worse, it causes no immediate pain, so its victims often continue to burn in the sunshine heedless of any problem.
On top of all that, the sap only takes a moment to do its work.
Thankfully, Jayden’s wounds did not get infected and he’s now on the road to recovery.
But it could be years before his skin is back to normal.
‘Because of the blisters he couldn’t really walk up and down the stairs and found everything so difficult,’ his grandmother explained
Annemarie said: ‘Now he’ll have to wear a special extremely-strong sun cream and he could have sensitivity to the sun for a long time to come.
‘I was speaking to a person who’s working to get rid of these plants properly, and he said the worst case he heard of was somebody being sensitive to the sunlight for 15 years.’
The giant hogweed is native to the Caucasus, but was introduced to Britain and Ireland as an ornamental plant in the 1800s, and its spread has now got out of control.
Mike Duddy, of the Mersey Basin Rivers Trust, said in 2015 that the giant hogweed was ‘without a shadow of a doubt, the most dangerous plant in Britain’.
If exposed to the plant, you should thoroughly wash the area that made contact and keep it out of sunlight for a few days, the Woodland Trust advises.
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