A WORRIED mum has warned about the dangers of Giant Hogweed after her three-month-old baby was hospitalised with raw burns and blisters.
Claire Hardwick gave the warning after Lottie suffered the painful injuries when her other daughter Lexi, 8, put the poisonous plant in her buggy as a “pretty flower” gift on May 16.
6 Lottie needed treatment at Manchester’s burns unit due to the plant’s poisonous sapCredit: Mercury Press
6 Lottie’s family initially thought she just had sunburnCredit: Mercury Press
6 Giant Hogweed is known as Britain’s most poisonous plant (file photo)Credit: Mercury Press
Within less than 24 hours, the youngster was covered in “red raw” welts her parents initially thought were sunburn and she was rushed to A&E, where she spent a night before being transferred to a specialist burns unit at a children’s hospital nearly 60 miles away.
Mum-of-five Claire, from Lancaster, Lancs, is now speaking out to raise awareness of the dangers of the seemingly innocuous plant, which causes reactions when it comes into contact with human skin because its sap is full of toxic chemicals.
The stay-at-home mum, 29, said: “This plant looks so pretty, but it is lethal.
“Please, do not let your kids pick it.
“I did not have a clue a plant could do that to your skin, and such a nice-looking plant as well – who would have thought it could be so dangerous?
“I felt so guilty when I realised what had caused Lottie’s burns – it’s every mum’s worst nightmare.
“Lexi is old enough to understand and feels awful too, because she knows she put the flowers there.”
Claire and husband Michael, 31, a cleaner, were walking down a cycle path with their children to visit the grave of their daughter Layla, who was stillborn last year, when Lexi picked the Hogweed, which has distinctive white flowers, to lay next to the plaque.
The eight-year-old placed the flowers at the feet of Lottie’s car seat buggy chair but the tot must have touched them with her hand and then rubbed her face.
By 7pm, four hours after the family got home from their walk, Lottie’s face had begun to redden and by 6.30am the next morning, large blisters had formed on her cheeks.
The concerned couple rushed their youngest child to A&E at Lancaster Infirmary, where doctors popped and wiped the blisters, initially believing them to be severe sunburn.
Nurses then realised Giant Hogweed was the cause of the burns after telling Claire to Google the plant and see whether that was what Lexi had picked.
Lottie spent a night on a children’s ward before being sent to a burns unit at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital the next day for further treatment before being allowed to return home.
Claire said: “By the time we got home her face was getting redder and redder.
“I thought it must be sunburn and felt so guilty, but it wasn’t sunny at all.
“By the next morning the blisters were red raw and her eyes were so puffy she couldn’t open them – her eyelids were three times the size they normally are.
“We were terrified – we had no idea what was wrong.”
Giant Hogweed causes such horrific burns because the plant’s sap contains chemicals which react with light while in contact with the skin.
Blisters usually form within 48 hours and in severe cases it can cause permanent scarring and even blindness.
Medics have not yet been able to tell Claire and Michael whether Lottie will suffer any permanent scarring as a result of her injuries.
Claire said: “Hopefully, Lottie won’t be scarred for life but the doctors aren’t certain yet.
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“They think the reaction was so much worse because she’s so young, so her skin is still very delicate.
“I want to raise awareness, because no one knows how dangerous this plant can be.”
Anyone who believes they have come into contact with the plant should wash their skin with soap and water and avoid direct sunlight for 48 hours.
In June last year gardener Oliver Fenton was nearly blinded and left with horrific burns to his face when toxic sap from a giant hogweed squirted on him.
6 Lottie’s mum Claire warned about the dangers of Giant HogweedCredit: Mercury Press
6 The family had gone to visit the grave of a daughter, who was stillborn last year, when the incident happenedCredit: Mercury Press
6 Medics said they didn’t know yet if Lottie would suffer any permanent scarringCredit: Mercury Press
What does hogweed look like?
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