Giant hogweed burns: child hurt by plant in Bolton - what the plant is, how to spot it and why it’s dangerous

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The youngster suffered horrific burns after coming into contact with the toxic, invasive plant.

Warnings are being issued about the dangers of giant hogweed after a young child in Greater Manchester suffered terrible burns after coming into contact with the plant.

The incident in Bolton has sparked efforts to remind the public about this toxic, invasive plant and what to do if they see it.

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What has happened in Bolton?

A school in Bolton issued a warning to parents and pupils after a four-year-old girl suffered horrible blisters on her hand from touching giant hogweed.

Reports say she came into contact with the plant in Longsight Park in Harwood.

The school’s message said the girl ended up in hospital with second-degree burns due to touching the plant.

Bolton Council said it has not received any reports of giant hogweed at that location but has promised to investigate.

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How to recognise giant hogweed and what to do if you see it?

The Woodland Trust says giant hogweed looks like an enormous version of the plant cow parsley, with large clusters of white flowers on umbrella-shaped heads.

It can be anything between 1.5m and 5m in height and have a spread of between one and two metres.

The stems are green with purple blotches and stiff, white hairs. They are also hollow.

The leaves are huge, up to 1.5m wide and 3m long, and look somewhat like rhubarb leaves.

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Do you know how to identify Giant Hogweed? (Photo: Shutterstock)Do you know how to identify Giant Hogweed? (Photo: Shutterstock)
Do you know how to identify Giant Hogweed? (Photo: Shutterstock)

The plant is not native to the UK, having been introduced in the 19th century and ended up in the wild. It particularly grows along riverbanks.

If you see giant hogweed on public land this should be reported to the local council.

The Government has a guide on what to do if you have invasive,non-native plants growing on private land.

A variety of ways of treating the problem, including digging them up and spraying them with chemicals, are discussed but landowners have to prevent them spreading and also stop any risks to health from what they do.

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Why is giant hogweed dangerous and what should you do if you touch it?

Giant hogweed is dangerous because the sap contains a chemical compound which makes the skin extremely sensitive to sunlight. This is what causes the blistering and burns on any skin which has the sap on it.

You should avoid brushing or touching the plant, particularly if they have been cut as this increases the likelihood of exposure to the sap.

If you do get giant hogweed sap on your skin, it needs washing with soapy water immediately.

Medical advice should also be sought and you will need to prevent the area being exposed to sunlight for several days.

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