Stinging nettle is covered with tiny, hollow hairs called trichomes that act like hypodermic needles by injecting irritants into your skin upon contact. The resulting itching sensation lasts from a few hours to a day.
Range: New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and northwestern U.S.
Description: This wildflower can grow over 14 feet tall. It has hollow, ridged stems with dark reddish-purple blotches, large compound leaves and white flower heads. Its sap is light-sensitive – skin contact followed by sunlight exposure causes severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring and blindness.
First Aid Treatment:
- Immediately wash affected area with warm soap and water.
- Remove contaminated clothing – Plant oil can continue to spread from clothing and shoes.
- To ease itching and discomfort, apply cool compresses for 15 to 30 minutes at a time. Avoid topical antihistamines, anesthetics and antibiotics, which may make the skin more sensitive. Use calamine lotion or baking soda to neutralize the effects of the plants’ chemicals.
Additional step for giant hogweed – Stay out of sunlight for a few days.
General Prevention Tips:
- Research the area you’ll be hiking, and avoid peak insect times.
- Avoid wearing perfumes, scented lotions, hair sprays, shampoos, soaps or cosmetics. Also limit the number of shiny objects you wear, such as jewelry and buckles.
- Cover all exposed areas of your body with insect repellent and reapply frequently.
Stingers: Bees, Wasps, Yellow Jackets and Hornets
Stinger-type insects attack when their nests are disturbed. As you hike, pay attention to your surroundings for potential nest locations, such as in hollow trees, hanging from branches, under logs, in the ground, and sometimes in the mud or dirt banks of streams.
Flies and Mosquitoes
All flies can transmit diseases. To protect yourself, avoid traveling during peak insect season, or wear insect repellent and cover exposed skin with protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirt and long pants snug at the wrists and ankles, heavy socks, and a hat.