Original article from Kent Live
A tall plant that blends into any rural area has a hidden danger attached to it.
Growing up to five metres tall, Giant Hogweed's sap contains toxic chemicals which react with light when in contact with human skin, causing blistering within 48 hours.
Effectively it prevents the skin from protecting itself from sunlight, which can lead to very bad sunburn and scarring.
Exposure to the plant can result in blisters, long-lasting scars, and – if it comes in contact with eyes – blindness.
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The blisters will form within 48 hours, but the scars can last for years.
With the weather looking up, people will want to enjoy picnics in open spaces -and it is in these secluded areas where Giant Hogweed grows.
Medical professionals say you should cover the affected area, and wash it with soap and water.
The blisters heal very slowly and can develop into phytophotodermatitis, a type of skin rash which flares up in sunlight.
If you feel unwell or have a severe reaction you are advised to see a doctor.
Here's all you need to know about the plant.
What are the immediate symptoms?
The sap of giant hogweed has chemicals which are toxic to humans and cause photosensitivity. The sap is phototoxic and can cause phytophotodermatitis.
When they touch skin, they effectively remove any protection against the sunlight causing severe skin inflammations.
Children have been hospitalised and suffered third-degree burns to their skin before.
The severe reaction to the plant is caused by the presence of linear derivates of furanocomarin in the plant's leaves, seeds, flowers, stems and roots.
The chemicals enter the cells' nucleus forming bonds with DNA and cause cells to die.
Giant Hogweed is scattered around Kent and most prevalent on the outskirts of Maidstone.
It is more common for people to come into contact with the plant amid the spring and summer as people spend more time outside.
Where does it grow in Kent?
Below is a list of the plant's known locations in Kent, according to Plant Tracker.
– In Lamberhurst, near Clay Hill Road where it crosses the River Teise
– In Branbridges near East Peckham, along the River Medway
– In East Peckham, along the River Medway near Branbridges Road
– In Trottiscliffe near Ford Lane
– In Wateringbury, along the River Medway
– In Wateringbury near Redhill Farm
– In Wateringbury near Cannon Lane
– In King’s Hill, near The Discovery School
– In West Farleigh, along the River Medway
– In East Farleigh, along the River Medway by the Medway Footpath
– In East Farleigh near Lower Road
– In Maidstone, near Maxwell Drive
– In Barming along the train tracks near to the station
– In Aylesford, near to the Carmelite Prior by the River Medway
– In Boxley by a lake near Boxley Road
– Along the A2 in Canterbury, near to Bridge Hill
– In Goodnestone off The Street near Canterbury
– In Sandwich off a River Stour tributary near Green Wall Road.