SUMMER holiday fun ended in a hospital visit for two teenagers after they came into contact with one of Britain’s most poisonous plants.
Thirteen-year-old pals Jamie Arthurs and Ben Beresford broke out in horrific blisters days after touching the Giant Hogweed on the banks of the Wear, at Fatfield, Washington.
Native to Western and Central Asia, Giant Hogweed was introduced to gardens in the UK in the 19th Century, but is so poisonous cultivation has been banned by law since 1981.
Sap from the plants can cause burning to the skin and even blindness if it touches the eyes.
Jamie suffered burns to his legs and Ben to his hands and body.
The Washington Comprehensive pupils spent three days in Sunderland Royal Hospital, where doctors were initially at a loss as to what had caused their injuries.
Medics are believed to have realised what they were dealing with when Jamie’s dad Richard, 42, remembered a similar childhood incident.
Jamie’s mum Joanne Ralph, 38, said the boys had been paddling in the river and Ben had snapped a stem of the plant as he hauled himself back on to the bank.
Jamie is thought have trampled over the plant as he followed his friend.
“There were no signs or symptoms for 48 hours, then the marks and blistering started to appear,” said Joanne.
“To look at Jamie, you would think he had third degree burns.
“It is like he has been scalded. It is awful.
“I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through this.”
Ben and Jamie are now having their wounds treated daily by a nurse and have been told they must avoid exposing them to direct sunlight for up to eight weeks.
Coun James Blackburn is Sunderland City Council’s portfolio holder for city services: “This is a very unfortunate incident and we wish the boys a speedy recovery,” he said.
“The council has a treatment programme and all landowners have a duty to act wherever this plant is found.”
Anyone who finds any Giant Hogweed growing should contact the city council on 0300 1000 101.