A mother was forced to fly home early from her ‘holiday from hell’ in southern Spain last month after suffering horrorific burns from giant hogweed – leaving her needing to wear gloves whenever she leaves the house.
Lucy Jones was on holiday in Cadiz with husband Max, 31, and three-year-old daughter Lily Jones when she noticed a burning sensation on her right hand on May 23.
The stay-at-home mother, 29, says her skin erupted in agonising blisters, as if her hand ‘had been dipped in boiling water’.
Horrified, she rushed to a pharmacy where staff dressed it and gave her steroids for dermatitis.
But the pain became so severe that the family were forced to cut their holiday short by three days and fork out £300 for earlier flights back to the UK.
Following her experience, the 29-year-old has to wear special SPF gloves until the burns heal
Mrs Jones’s hand erupted in blisters as if ‘her hand had been dipped in boiling water’
Giant hogweed (left), Latin name heracleum mantegazzianum, is a close relative of cow parsley (right)
Lucy Jones, 29, was forced to rush back from her holiday in southern Spain after she suffered burns from a giant hogweed
Mrs Jones was forced to cut her getaway in Cadiz three days short with husband Max and three-year-old daughter Lily
The 29-year-old mum went to Maidstone A&E in Kent, where medics were initially stumped about the cause of the blistering burns.
After being transferred to the burns unit, a doctor who had seen the symptoms before said she must have come into contact with the toxic hogweed plant.
There, Mrs Jones had the tops of her blisters scraped off and her hand dressed – a procedure she described as ‘painful and traumatising’.
Once her burns have fully healed, she will have to slap on sunscreen three times a day and wear SPF gloves to protect her scorched skin from the sun.
Mrs Jones, from Maidstone, Kent, said: ‘I woke up and my hand was red and sore and it looked like a sunburn.
‘I went to a pharmacy because it was getting worse, it was a really horrible burning feeling.
‘Over the next 24 hours it got worse. It was blistering, really swollen and I could barely move my fingers.
‘It was so painful. We decided to catch a last-minute flight home and went straight to the hospital from the airport.
Despite being given steroids for dermatitis and rushed to a pharmacy, the hogweed burns ended the holiday early
Mrs Jones went straight to A&E in Maidstone after she touched down at the airport
‘They had no clue what it was, no one in A&E had seen it before. They treated it as a burn, they took all the blisters off and removed a lot of skin.
What is Giant Hogweed?
Giant hogweed can be attractive but presents a severe risk to people unaware of its harm
Giant hogweed is invasive and potentially harmful.
Chemicals in the sap can cause photodermatitis or photosensitivity, where the skin becomes very sensitive to sunlight and may suffer blistering, pigmentation and long-lasting scars.
It is a close relative of cow parsley originally from Russia and Georgia and can grow to over 10ft in height.
‘It was painful and traumatising. It was as if my hand had been put in boiling hot water and there were blisters everywhere and some red patches started appearing on my left hand.
‘I went back to A&E for a couple of days to get it dressed. I went to the burns unit and the consultant said he knew what it was because he’d seen it before.
‘It completely ruined the holiday. We’d been looking forward to it for ages. My daughter was loving being out there and going in the pool.’
Mrs Jones doesn’t know if she brushed against the plant in the UK or in Spain but says she suspects she may have inadvertently touched it near her home as her area is known for having a ‘hogweed problem’.
Lucy said: ‘People normally get it on their legs because they walk through it. I’m not sure where I touched the plant, in Spain or the UK.
‘I can’t recall walking through woodland. I was extremely surprised I hadn’t heard of it.
‘Since returning, my friend said that our area has a bit of a problem with it. It wouldn’t surprise me if I touched it here without knowing then I reacted in Spain.’
Touching hogweed causes severe burns and blistering on the skin that lasts for several months.
The plant can grow to ten feet in height and chemicals in its sap can cause photosensitivity.
Mrs Jones said: ‘When the sap goes on your skin it removes the melatonin which makes you extremely sensitive to light so perhaps when I went to Spain and was out in the sun it reacted.
Mrs Jones said she didn’t know whether she came into contact with the hogweed at home in Maidstone or while on holiday in Cadiz, south Spain
The Jones family had to fork out £300 for new earlier flights back from Spain
‘I’ve got to wear special SPF gloves [when they arrive] when outside until it heals but it isn’t healing quickly.
‘When it’s healed I have to put on high SPF three times per day. It can last up to seven years on your skin.
‘The skin has gone dark where all the dead skin is, it’s quite raw where they took the skin off and the top layers are falling off.’