An unfortunate encounter with a giant hogweed left 17-year-old Alex Childress vulnerable to the harmful effects of the sun. The poisonous sap from the "plant from hell" is known to cause severe damage to skin and eyes, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
Giant hogweed sends Virginia teen to hospital burn unit https://t.co/5JNAk5Uh06 https://t.co/oVbtR67kT0— CBS News (@CBS News) 1531645385.0
Childress was doing landscaping work in Fredericksburg on Tuesday when he chopped down the noxious weed. As it toppled and brushed his face, the teen thought nothing of it and continued toiling away, carrying the fallen plant in his right arm.
He felt some pain on his face, but dismissed it as just a minor case of sunburn.
It wasn't until he showered later that night that things took a disturbing turn, and he realized something wasn't right. He told People:
I thought I just had sunburn, so I didn't really pay any attention. Then I got in the shower and I started rubbing my face. I thought it was just a little bit of skin at first, but then big chunks of my face were falling off.
@CBSNews Oh my goodness... speedy recovery wishes from me 🙏— Debbie Viggiano (@Debbie Viggiano) 1531645829.0
Childress's mother Christy, who is a nurse at Richmond's Virginia Commonwealth University, took her son to the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center after he confirmed his contact with the nasty weed. The doctors instructed she take her son immediately to the burn unit, where they treated him for second and third degree burns.
If you're in or near Virginia, watch out for the extremely toxic Hogweed plant! Alex Childress was doing landscap… https://t.co/puCPR6bHnz— Taylor Johnson (@Taylor Johnson) 1531503653.0
He described enduring the excruciating pain from a hot shower scrubbing at the intensive care unit.
It felt like wind-burn, like my skin was chapped. [Doctors] had me stand in the shower for an hour and a half, scrubbing my body with soap to bring the PH level down. I had hot water running over open wounds, that was probably the worst part. That or the burn treatment where they scraped off the dead skin.
Although Childress will recover, it could be a long process. He's not allowed to have exposure to sunlight for two to six months, and his face could be vulnerable to light for up to two years.
Alex Childress, 17, has burns on his face and arm because of the clear watery sap from the plant. He was working wi… https://t.co/jOe2tZ5ViI— Karina Bolster (@Karina Bolster) 1531427647.0
Medical disqualifications derailed his scholarship plans to Virginia Tech's Army ROTC, so he's started a GoFundMe campaign to offset medical costs and to help towards paying for college.
"I worked hard to get the scholarship," he told People.
When my face heals, I have to go through a whole medical waiver process to make sure they won't pull my scholarship. It's a possibility I won't be able to [attend in the fall], so that's been a real struggle for my family.
5 things to know about giant hogweed Where it grows, how to identify, where to report it, how to treat burns https://t.co/6kn5fUqwSE— Mississauga MGs (@Mississauga MGs) 1497310912.0
Giant hogweed was first discovered in the U.S. in 1917 and is a biennial or perennial herb that can typically be found near streams, rivers, along road sides, and in open fields. It prefers sunlight and moist dirt, but can also be spotted in partially shaded areas as well.
Beware! This hogweed plant can give you 3rd degree burns. Here's where it grows: https://t.co/WbjOoVmae8 https://t.co/TG0kdD4GTR— Weather Network US (@Weather Network US) 1467925272.0
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation urges people who've come in contact with giant hogweed to wash the affected area immediately with soap and water, and avoid sunlight for 48 hours.
Of course, when your skin starts falling off your face in the shower like it did for Childress, it's time for medical attention.