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Giant hogweed sends Virginia teen to hospital with third-degree burns

A teen has suffered second- and third-degree burns after encountering a giant hogweed Tuesday while working at his summer job in the Fredericksburg area of Virginia.

Alex Childress, 17, was weed-whacking when he chopped down a tall, green plant topped with white flowers -- which happened to be a giant hogweed.

According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, the plant released a poisonous sap that brushed across his face and left arm.

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His father, Justin Childress, told the newspaper he saw his son when he got off of work -- and the top layer of skin in the affected areas had started to shed off “like a really bad sunburn.”

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Doctors later found that the giant hogweed caused Alex Childress to suffer second- and third-degree burns on his face and arm.

Giant hogweed has a watery, clear sap that makes the skin more sensitive to sunlight. The combination of sap moisture and sun can cause painful blisters and lead to permanent scarring.

The plant should only be handled with protective clothing and eye protection, experts say.

Last month, giant hogweed was spotted in Virginia for the first time.

Giant Hogweed can be found in the New England, Mid-Atlantic and Northwest areas of the country, according to Snopes.

It has been found in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Washington, New York, Maryland, Oregon, Michigan, Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, CBS News reported. The plant can also be found in Massachusetts, according to the Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project.

>>Related: Dangerous plant that causes blindness, 3rd degree burns found in multiple states, officials say

Childress was discharged from the hospital Thursday and will have to avoid the sun for the rest of the summer.

Due to his injuries, Childress won’t be able to work this summer. He doesn’t have medical insurance.

He is planning to begin attending Virginia Tech in the fall.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay for his medical costs.

“I have a scholarship to Virginia Tech with the Army ROTC but I may end up losing it now because of medical disqualification,” he wrote on GoFundMe. “If you can help it would be great. I will use any funds for supplies for college if I can still attend this fall, and medical bills from being in the Burn ICU.”

The fundraiser for Childress has raised over $4,000 so far.

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