Virginia teen's brush with weed causes skin on his face to melt off
A teenager's brush with what he thought was just a common garden weed has caused skin on the side of his face to melt off.
Alex Childress, 17, of Virginia, was working a landscaping job near Spotsylvania when he first felt the intense burns, which he originally brushed off as strong sunburn.
Instead his father Justin Childress found the pain was caused by a brief encounter with sap from the Giant Hogweed plant.
"Alex continued working throughout the day once he got it on his face," Mr Childress explained. "When he got home he got into the shower and the skin on his face was basically peeling away and peeling off.
Giant Hogweed is an invasive plant in the United States that can cause third-degree burns and permanent blindness, according to researchers at the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech.
Contact with the plant’s sap, in combination with sun exposure, can lead to those extreme conditions.
Alex's mother, a nurse at VCU Medical Center, returned home and determined her son's injuries were 2nd to 3rd degree burns that needed immediate medical attention.
The teenager was first sent to Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, but doctors said he would be better treated at the Burn Center at VCU Medical Center.
"It’s a traumatic experience, but Alex is a tough kid," his father said. "I just don’t say it because he’s my kid, but he’s one of the toughest kids that I've ever seen."
Mr Childress said his son had overcome a bad football injury to become successful in track and wrestling at Spotsylvania High School.
Alex was given a full-ride scholarship to Virginia Tech with plans to enroll in the Corps of Cadets later this year. However, the teen's injuries may derail those plans.
"He was supposed to move-in this August," Mr Childress said. "But that may have to be deferred at this point until Alex can get a medical waiver from his doctor as far as physical activity."
The Giant Hogweed plant can not only pose a threat to your skin, but it can also impact the environment. It can grow up to 14 feet, deeply shading areas and inhibiting growth of native species.
The plant’s hollow stems are generally two to four inches in diameter, with dark purple and red raised spots and bristle-like hairs. The umbrella-shaped white floral blooms grow up to two and a half feet wide.
The plant can easily be mistaken for other harmless plants, such as Queen Anne’s Lace and Cow Parsnip.
The Childress' hoped others can learn from their son's injuries to be on the lookout for this invasive plant.
The Childress family has set up a GoFundMe page to help in Alex’s recovery.
Story from CNN