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Parsnip leaves blisters horror

PUBLISHED: 13:49 27 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:58 16 September 2010

A gardener who suffered horrendous blisters after touching parsnip leaves is warning others of their potential dangers.

Jo Miles was working in her vegetable patch on a sunny day and took off her shirt in an attempt to cool down.

A gardener who suffered horrendous blisters after touching parsnip leaves is warning others of their potential dangers.

Jo Miles was working in her vegetable patch on a sunny day and took off her shirt in an attempt to cool down. But her bare skin came into contact with the parsnip leaves she was trimming to give to the pigs she keeps.

At first she took no notice of the small red, itchy weals which formed on her arms, hands and stomach, after cutting the leaves last Friday, but two days later they had become huge, painful blisters.

The mum-of-two, of Surlingham, said: “I woke up on Sunday and everything had blistered up and was getting worse and worse.

“I called the out-of-hours service on Sunday night as I was sitting there and they were getting sorer and sorer and I could see them getting bigger and bigger.

“I went to get some tablets and they said I should go to a doctor first thing in the morning.

“They sent me to the dermatology unit at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. It was so painful I couldn't move my hand and changing gear in the car was agony.”

Mrs Miles, 48, lives with her husband Christopher and son and daughter, and has a three-acre garden. A graphic designer who has worked in marketing, she is currently involved full-time in being self-sufficient.

She says the only things she does not grow in her vegetable patch are peas and celery, although she does have sugar snap peas, while the family also keeps pigs, cows, sheep and chickens.

At first she felt it could have been a reaction from other plants, but after some internet investigation she realised it could have been the parsnip leaves.

She said: “I'm aware that you can get a reaction from plants like giant hogweed, but I can't believe I didn't know about parsnips.

“No one I have spoken to knew about it and the dangers of it. I just wanted to warn other people as it's not a nice thing to have. They were just like burns, they hurt so much.”

The blisters have started to subside as she is using steroid cream and taking steroid tablets.

Guy Barter, chief horticultural advisor for the Royal Horticultural Society, advised those cutting back plants or harvesting lush crops to wear overalls for protection.

He said: “The plants of the carrot family have sap that is absorbed by the skin. The sap traps sunlight then re-emits the sunlight at a wavelength that causes severe burns, so that sunlight that wouldn't normally cause burns can cause problems if you have sap on your skin.”

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