Virginia teen suffers third-degree burns from Giant Hogweed plant

Justin Childress said his son had overcome a bad football injury to become successful in track and wrestling at Spotsylvania High School

Justin Childress said his son had overcome a bad football injury to become successful in track and wrestling at Spotsylvania High School

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.

Health officials have advised North Carolina residents about the presence of a risky plant that can cause third-degree burns and blindness.

According to North Carolina State University, giant hogweed is a Class "A" North Carolina noxious weed and is only found in Watauga County.

Sap from the plant can cause burns, blisters and blindness.

The teenager was first sent to Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, but doctors determined his injuries could best be treated at the Burn Center at VCU Medical Center. "I just don't say it because he's my kid, but he's one of the toughest kids that I've ever seen".

Alex was given a full-ride scholarship to Virginia Tech with plans to enroll in the Corps of Cadets in the fall. "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 hogweed plant can grow up to 14 feet or more, has hollow, ridged stems that grow 2-4 inches in diameter and have dark reddish-purple blotches.

Jordan Metzgar, curator at the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech, told the Times-Dispatch that giant hogweed have been spotted around Virginia, adding that the plant was not spreading like in NY and other Northern states.

The NYDEC also offers advice on how to control giant hogweed as the toxic plant can be controlled manually, mechanically, and with herbicides.

The plant can easily be mistaken for other harmless plants, such as Queen Anne's Lace and Cow Parsnip.

If you wish to remove the plant, do not use a weed-whacker.

The Childress family has set up a GoFundMe page to help in Alex's recovery.

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