A ten-year-old girl suffered horrific third degree burns – after picking up a piece of Giant Hogweed while fishing with her dad.
Lauren Fuller was building a den by a riverbank when she scooped up the invasive plant, which grows wild across large swathes of the countryside.
Within 24 hours she had bright red burns on her hands and cheeks – but when her parents took her to hospital, they were told it was just sunburn.
Unsatisfied with the diagnosis, they Googled their daughter’s symptoms and quickly realised she was a victim of Giant Hogweed.
Lauren may now need skin grafts to repair the damage and her parents Russell and Charlotte are warning other parents of the danger the plant can pose.
Construction worker Russell, 32, of Thornbury, Bristol, said: “She was absolutely fine on the Sunday – she thought nothing of it.
“But on the Monday her hands were red raw and by the Tuesday she had big blisters. It was really, really bad.
“They put these little gloves on her to cover the blisters and when they took them off a couple of hours later her skin had completely melted.”
“Lauren is a tough little cookie but she was crying a lot. She was in a lot of pain and she was really worried about what was going to happen to her hands.”
Little Lauren came into contact with the plant near Loch Lomond, Scotland, on Sunday, June 28 shortly after her family had moved home to Shotts, Lanarkshire.
The year six student was first taken to Wishaw General Hospital before being transferred to New Southern General in Glasgow.
Two weeks on, she is still taking painkillers and relies on a heavy duty cream to stop her blisters and burns from getting any worse.
Some of her skin has been removed following the incident, and she faces the possibility of having a skin graft.
Lauren’s parents say there should be clear signs indicating where Giant Hogweed is growing and hope to raise awareness about the risk the plant poses.
Russell said: “I want other people to know that this plant is out there and to be aware of how dangerous it is.
“What happened to Lauren was terrifying and I would honestly really hate for any other parent to go through what Charlotte and I have gone through.
“We had no idea what was going on and the hospital didn’t either.
“We had to use Google to diagnose Lauren’s symptoms ourselves and the specialist said she hadn’t seen anything like it for 20 years.
“I was so incredibly worried about what was going to happen.
“There is no reason for there not to be warning signs where the plant is growing. There are signs to warn people not to go swimming, so why not for this?
“Charlotte and I are really worried about someone else getting burned because no one seems to know what this plant is.”
Giant Hogweed was originally brought to the UK from Central Asia in 1893 and now commonly grows on riverbanks and wasteland.
Its leaves, stems, roots, flowers and seeds contain toxic components which can be transferred by contact and make exposed skin extremely sensitive to sunlight.
Within 24-48 hours, rashes, burns and blisters may begin to appear.
The toxins affect almost everyone but children are particularly sensitive.
Blisters caused by Giant Hogweed tend to heal very slowly as they can damage DNA, and severe blistering may re-occur for many years.
The blisters can also develop into phytophotodermatitis, a type of skin rash caused as a result of sensitivity to chemicals in certain plants and fruit which flares up in sunlight.
If the plant’s sap is rubbed into the eyes, it can cause temporary or permanent blindness.
The NHS advises those who come in contact with Giant Hogweed to cover the affected area and wash it with soap and water.