A three-year-old girl has suffered potentially lifelong injuries to her hand after touching a toxic plant at a popular Dundee path.
Ruby Duffy, from Woodside in Dundee, received hospital treatment for large blisters after picking up giant hogweed from an overgrown area at the Grassy Beach.
The brave youngster’s fingers were covered in the painful skin lesions, forcing staff at Ninewells Hospital’s paediatric assessment unit to pop them using needles.
Doctors say it could be months before the wounds fully heal but her right hand, which is her dominant hand, may be sensitive to UV light for the rest of her life.
Her mum, Caitlin Duffy, said she “never thought in 100 years” such injuries could be caused by a plant in Scotland and hopes to warn others of the danger.
She said: “I’d heard of hogweed but couldn’t have told you what it looks like.
“The effects it have been a real shock. Children are so curious so I’m worried this could happen to others.
“I would really encourage people to keep an eye out for these plants.
“Her hand is always going to be affected by sun light, we’ve been told.
“It will likely be sore and itchy for another four months too. She’s really struggling with daily activities just now so hopefully it gets better soon.
“Despite it being quite serious, I actually think she’s been quite lucky. Imagine the weed touched her face.”
Caitlin said the incident likely happened on Monday while her daughter was with her mum at the Stannergate’s Grassy Beach.
The route is a popular walking and cycling path which connects the Port of Dundee and Broughty Ferry.
She said: “My mum said she was picking them from a big overgrown area by the side of the path.
“That is likely why she’s gotten such bad injuries.
“It took two days for the blisters to come out but when they did they were made so much worse by the hot weather.
“It got so bad that day we were told she needed to be seen immediately on Wednesday evening at Ninewells.
“She’s been incredibly brave through it all but it’s been a really distressing experience. Watching her in so much pain has been really hard.
“The staff were amazing though. They were all so kind and patient with her as they tried to figure out what was going on.”
What is giant hogweed?
The invasive plant first introduced to the UK in the 19th century from Asia, as an ornamental garden plant.
The weed is often described as Britain’s most dangerous plant because its leaves and stalks contain a toxic sap.
It’s believed the sap’s harmful effects, which can affect people as well as cats and dogs, are triggered by sunlight.
Anyone who touches the sap should wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and cold water as soon as possible.
It’s also important to keep the exposed area away from sunlight for 48 hours.
The weeds have large umbrella-shaped pods which contain hundreds of seeds and can quickly grow, covering roadsides, footpaths and riverbanks.
It is different to hogweed, which is a native plant and has less toxicity so does not cause skin irritation.