Dangerous 'hobo parsnip' severely burns, blisters woman

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When the rash a young woman had on her leg after falling into a parsnip plant transformed into a viscous burn emphasized by a yellow puss-filled blister the size of a tennis ball, she knew something was seriously wrong. 

Charlotte Murphy, 21, of Essex, Vermont, detailed in a Facebook post how the burn rapidly increased in severity and size in a matter of days after coming in contact with the plant. The wild plant is an invasive species from the parsnip family, also known as hobo parsnip for growing along roadsides, and looks like poison ivy but can cause second-degree chemical burns. 

"A week later redness increased and the itch began. Unfortunately I scratched it a lot in my sleep and woke up with blisters on my leg," Murphy said in her post. "Throughout the day they grew exponentially to a point where my leg was swollen and I couldn’t walk." 

Warning, image showing the burn below may be graphic.

The plant grows as a 5-foot stem with bundles of tiny yellow flowers that hold hundreds of seeds. Similar to poison ivy, skin contact with juice from the stem of the wild parsnip or oil from the leaves causes blisters and burns. But if triggered by the sun, this particular parsnip can unleash chemicals that destroy cell and skin tissue, according to Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine. 

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Reaction usually feels like a sunburn, but in Murphy's extreme case can escalate to the point of second-degree chemical burn. Her blisters started as small red bumps but ballooned after spending a week working in the sun. The blisters also began to spread to her other limbs.

After receiving treatment at a burn clinic, Murphy is expected to fully recover. 

Follow Lilly Price on Twitter: @lillianmprice

 

 

 

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