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Woman Warns of Weed That Causes Second-Degree Burns

For some people, there's nothing more refreshing and revitalizing than taking a nature walk. If you happen to go off the beaten path, however, you might come into contact with some things in nature that will leave you with a lot of regret, and a lot of pain. One Vermont woman didn't think much of it when she fell into some brush on the side of the road, until the blisters began to form.

Charlotte Murphey, a 21-year-old student at Elon University, was outdoors getting some exercise. She accidentally fell into some green plants with sprays of tiny yellow blossoms. She didn't think much about the little flowers and went on with her exercise routine. She had no pain, no inflammation, so she went on with her day.

A week later, Murphey began experiencing some redness. Then she began to itch. The itch became more and more irritating, and she found herself scratching in her sleep.

One morning, Murphey woke up with blisters on her legs. The blisters began to grow and became more and more painful. Her legs swelled. By the end of the day, she couldn't even walk.

It turned out that the irritation on her legs came from her encounter with the wild plant a week earlier. She'd fallen into a patch of wild parsnip. Oils in the plant's sap are considered 'furanocoumarins', which cause a condition called 'phytophotodermatitis'.

Basically, the mixture of plant oils, sweat and ultraviolet light on the skin produce severe chemical burns within a few days of contact.

Murphey found out the hard way. Some of her blisters were bigger than golf balls. She had to be treated at the UVM burn clinic. Doctors bandaged her legs to prevent the infection from spreading, but thankfully the student will be making a full recovery.

Some people aren’t so lucky. Chemical burns from wild parsnip can actually cause problems for years, making areas of the skin discolored and highly sensitive to the light. Irritations can be reoccurring.

"My hope in posting this unfortunate news is to create greater awareness for what WILD PARSNIP is (an invasive species that looks like yellow queen Anne’s lace and is found along roadsides/guardrails that has been spreading each year throughout Vermont and other states)," Murphey wrote on Facebook.

"Please be on the lookout the rest of the summer and get help immediately if you come in contact with its oil! I apologize if the following photos of my burn are too intense, but they are the best way to show people what wild parsnip does," the post concluded.

It’s not just out in the wilderness or on roadsides where people need to be careful. One woman in Minnesota experienced a chemical burn due to wild parsnip, also known as 'hobos parsnip'. She is a gardener who was clearing away some weeds in order to put in some plants in her own yard. The noxious weed's oil got all over her arms, and when it reacted with sunlight, her arms became red and irritated.

People are urged to avoid contact with wild parsnip, but if you do happen to come into contact with it, get straight to a sink. Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water, and keep it covered for at least 48 hours to prevent light rays from causing a chemical reaction.
Source: People
Photos: Wikimedia Commons/ Justina843, Pfc598, Ian Cunliffe

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