Boy, 8, 'scarred for life' after toxic giant hogweed plant causes blisters and burns

24 May 2024, 11:53 | Updated: 24 May 2024, 14:16

A mother has said her eight-year-old son's hands will "never be the same again" after being burnt by a plant known to be a "risk to public health".

Zach Bloomer-Rogers from Ballymartin, Northern Ireland, was left with blisters and burns on both of his hands and arms after brushing against what was thought to be giant hogweed at The White Water on the Newry Road Kilkeel at the beginning of May.

His mother, Danielle Bloomer-Rogers, put out an urgent message on Facebook warning others in the area about the plant and said her son has been "scarred for life" after trying to collect grass and flowers.

"His scarring is really bad," Mrs Bloomer-Rogers told Sky News.

"I don't think [his hands] will ever be the same again. They are so sensitive to the sun now."

The plant - which originated in southern Russia and Georgia - is described by the Royal Horticultural Society as "invasive and potentially harmful".

Four species of the plant remain "at large" in Britain, the RHS website says, adding that it is chemicals in the sap that can cause photodermatitis or photosensitivity - where the skin becomes very sensitive to sunlight and may suffer blistering, pigmentation and long-lasting scars.

It is similar in appearance to the non-toxic common hogweed, which the Woodland Trust says is much smaller and has more rounded leaves.

'Doctors didn't seem bothered'

Zach came into contact with the plant on 8 May, but over time the burns on his hands started to blister and burst.

When asked if she consulted medical advice, Mrs Bloomer-Rogers said "doctors didn't seem too bothered," and she suspected it was down to a lack of knowledge about the harm the plant can cause.

"Keeping the burns moist was the only advice we really got. They told me no more burns would appear but that wasn't the case," she said.

The RHS warns people to protect themselves from any skin contact with the sap, especially on the face, when managing the plant.

It advises "wash off any sap as soon as possible with plenty of cold water".

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Mrs Bloomer-Rogers said she also contacted Newry, Mourne and Down District Council hoping they would "take action" to remove the plant, but they have so far done nothing.

She said: "As for the council... they have not responded, they haven't even put a sign up, removed it nothing!"

The mother wants to tell other parents to be "so careful with their children around it [the plant]".

She said: "It's so hard to identify if you don't actually know what it is (like myself).

"Without my husband pinpointing the plant [as the cause] the minute he saw the pictures, I'm still not sure we would have an answer."

Sky News has contacted the Newry, Mourne and Down District Council for comment.