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Monday, September 02, 2013


Damaged: Mr Cooper cannot expose his injured leg to direct sunlight for seven years after the poisonous sap destroyed his skin's UV protectionPoison: Keith Cooper from Howdon, Tyne & Wear, shows his injured leg as he rests at home

A man has described how his leg swelled up and erupted in blisters after he went to examine a ‘pretty plant’ that his wife had seen.

Keith Cooper did not realise that they had stumbled across giant hogweed and was hit by the plant’s toxic sap after stepping on one of its leaf stalks.

He had to be taken to hospital where he was told he could not expose his injured right leg to sunlight for seven years.

Mr Cooper, 50, was out for a stroll in Whitley Bay, near Newcastle upon Tyne, with his 49-year-old wife, Maria Graham when she spotted the plant in the undergrowth.

‘We were walking the dog near the coast road when my wife stopped to admire a plant and she asked if we could have one for our garden,’ the father-of-two said. 

The sap rubbed against me but I didn’t realise as it didn’t hurt. I just thought I had been bitten. It was only when I got home that my right leg flared up and it started blistering.’

Unable to walk without limping, Mr Cooper, a former dispensing optician, went to hospital where his condition at first baffled doctors.
‘The consultant said she he had never seen anything like it,’ he said.

After a while doctors were able to identify the cause of the blistering as a giant hogweed.

Mr Cooper, from Howdon in Newcastle, said: ‘They told me I can’t put my leg in the sun for the next seven years. If my leg goes into the sun it blisters again because the injury has taken all the skin’s natural UV protection away. I will have to go round with one sock on.’

He had developed phytophotodermatitis – a disorder which makes skin hypersensitive to ultraviolet light and can last for years.

Giant hogweed sap contains toxic chemicals known as photosensitising furanocoumarins, which react with light when in contact with human skin, causing blistering within 48 hours.
Effectively the toxic sap prevents the skin from protecting itself from sunlight, which can lead to very bad sunburn and scarring.

Giant Hogweed - Herocleum Mantegazziamum can grow up to 16ft tall
Damaging plant: Giant Hogweed - Herocleum Mantegazziamum can grow up to 16ft tall

Read more on Daily Mail

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