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Toxic plant, severe reaction

A Kelowna mother is sounding the alarm over a noxious weed that can cause anaphylactic shock in some people.

"My son has had a severe reaction, and when I looked it up, I couldn't find it on the Kelowna or B.C. list of noxious plants," says Jackie Johnston.

Johnston's son Ty got some of a milky substance on his hands from some myrtle spurge.

Even after washing it off, it still transferred all over his body and caused severe blistering. "Any areas that he touched had chemical burns. He's covered in blisters, and there is skin peeling off," his mother says.

Johnston says they came into contact with the plant while hiking Sunday in the Clifton Road area of Kelowna.

"My husband touched it, too, but my son opened a leaf and got some of the milky substance on his hands," says Johnston.

It took several hours for the reaction to emerge, but by Monday morning Ty was in such pain he needed to go to the walk-in clinic. The doctor prescribed Benadryl and an oral steroid, but as of Tuesday, there was still plenty of blistering and swelling.

Myrtle spurge is classified as a noxious weed in the U.S. and is subject to quarantine. The plant's milky sap can cause significant skin and eye irritation and can be poisonous if ingested.

The myrtle spurge bears yellow flowers and its blue-green, succulent-style foliage is arranged in spirals around the stems. The plant is native to the Mediterranean, and likes sunny locations and well-drained soil. 

"I just don't want other kids to have to go through the same ordeal. It can cause anaphylaxis – it's worse than poison ivy almost," says Johnston.



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