RICHMOND, VA —
A month after officials in Virginia warned about the dangers of an invasive plant commonly known as giant hogweed, a teen has sustained burns that will leave him sensitive to the light for months, WWBT reports.
“I thought I had a bad sunburn,” Alex Childress said. “I got in the shower and my face started peeling. My mom said I had third-degree burns on my face and arms.”
The 17-year-old high school graduate was working at his landscaping job on Tuesday when he came into contact with the plant. He kept working because he did not realize what it was, he said.
“We were working outside a factory and I snipped down a bush and it fell and touched my face,” Childress said. “I didn’t pay any mind to it because I do it all the time.”
Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) can cause burning and even blindness for those who come into contact with the sap, officials warned in June.
The plant produces white flowers that form an umbrella-shaped canopy over its stems, which contain purple splotches and coarse, white hair-like structures. There are multiple lookalike plants, the most common being cow parsnip.
Though the most recent report was in Virginia, the species has been reported in Maine, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and parts of the Pacific Northwest.
As for Childress, he wound up being transported from Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center to VCU Medical Center’s Evans-Haynes Burn Center to get proper treatment for the burns.
“I’m feeling better,” he told WWBT. “There are certain aspects that are painful like when they clean off dead skin or blisters, that’s sore. Standing in the shower and having the water run over an open wound kind of hurts.”
Childress was discharged from the hospital on Thursday. His skin will be sensitive to sunlight for months, causing the teen to worry about entering college in the fall. He is scheduled to attend Virginia Tech on an ROTC scholarship.
“I’m hoping that scholarship will still be available for me,” he said.
His advice for those who encounter the plant: “Don’t go anywhere near it.”