A PLANT which has been branded the most dangerous in the UK has left two schoolboys with scorching red blisters.
Brothers Alfie, 12, and Henry, 10, have been left with nasty scars after the dreaded giant hogweed burned their flesh near Wordsley in the West Midlands.
Alfie and Henry were playing near the River Stour on Saturday, June 12 when they came into contact with the dangerous plant – which is common along rivers.
Mum Nikki, 43, said: “They’d taken their tops off and I think they just ran past the plants as they were playing.
“There were no signs that anything was wrong at the time – no stinging, or any pain or redness of any kind.”
But Nikki realised something was wrong when Alfie arrived home from school two days later and complained something was “wrong” with his shoulder.
“When he took his shirt off, his shoulder and arm were red and covered in blisters. He also had a small blister on his stomach and other arm,” she said.
“Over the next few hours more appeared on his arm, leg and stomach and also red marks without blisters appeared over his lower back.
“I checked Henry and he had a small patch on his shoulder blade with blisters, where a few more developed.”
Alfie and Henry have been given steroid cream to use three times a day, and the doctors also prescribed a week-long course of antihistamines.
Mike Duddy, of the Mersey Basin Rivers Trust, said 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.
“We’ve no idea how long it will take to clear up,” Nikki said.
“From what I have read it can take a long time for the initial scarring to fade.
“I guess it will depend on how well they can keep it out of the sun as it can reblister when exposed to sunlight.”
WHAT IS GIANT HOGWEED?
Giant hogweed is a close relative of cow parsley and it originally came from Southern Russia and Georgia.
It is widely distributed in the wild and can pose a serious risk to people who are unaware of the damage it can cause.
Chemicals in the sap can cause photodermatitis or photosensitivity, where the skin becomes very sensitive to sunlight, according to the RHS.
People who have come into contact with the plant may suffer blistering, pigmentation and long-lasting scars.
The UK also has a native hogweed, which will be familiar to gardeners and walkers – it is much smaller than a giant hogweed and causes less severe burns and reactions.
The giant hogweeds were introduced into Britain and Europe from the Caucasus Mountains in the 19th century.
But they soon escaped from cultivation and the first wild population was recorded in Cambridgeshire in 1828, soon becoming common across the country.
The giant hogweed looks similar to cow parsley, with thick bristly stems that are often purple-blotched, and white flowers.
Two miles away, on another branch of the River Stour, Jayden Pinches, 11, was burned by the plant while spending the weekend with his dad.
His mum, Eulalia Sintes, 30, said: “When he came back home to me the following morning he showed me his arm and neck, which had blisters on them.
“It happened nearly three weeks ago and the blisters have only recently gone, and he’s been left with marks which I’m hoping will clear up over time.
Now both of the concerned mums are speaking out to warn other parents about the plant.
“I would just advise parents to know what the plant looks like and to be aware of it,” Eulalia said.
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Nikki added: “Warn your kids to keep an eye out for it and steer clear of it if they see it.
“Many kids used to use cow parsley to make pea shooters and it looks so similar that it is easy to get them mixed up.”
The giant hogweed is native to the Caucasus, but was introduced to Britain as an ornamental plant in 1817, and its spread has now got out of control.
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