It was a gloriously sunny day the Sunday before last. It actually felt like summer. I and DOG went hiking as per our usual weekend ritual. The trail wound through deep, lush vegetation that was over my head (from all that rain we get). Normally I do not worry overly much about this vegetation and just plow through. It’s been so long since we had a sunny day though that I forgot all about pushki (also known as cow parsnip or Indian celery). It was such a warm day (okay, I know 70F/ 21C does not count as hot for most of you but I live in a coastal northern environment and it has been around 40F/ 5C much of the summer) so when DOG and I reached the lake and he went for a swim I decided to join him. It was my first dip of the year and I enjoyed the sensation of the cold sucking my breath away as the glacial fed water hit my body. After a picnic lunch we hiked back, me talking my thoughts out loud to warn any bears meandering nearby that we were deep in the brush.
That evening when I was doing dishes I realized the back of my hand hurt. On closer inspection I realized that rather larger brown blisters had developed all the way across the back of my hand. They looked like an infected burn. I racked my brain to think of when I might have burned them – I would have remembered if I had spilled something hot on them wouldn’t I? Ah, yes, then I remembered the pushki. The juices of this lovely plant contain a phototoxin, which with the interaction of sunlight, can create a chemical burn on the skin. Of course! And I had been brandishing through them all day, likely breaking more then a few leaves and letting the juices flow on a bright sunny day. The other disconcerting thing about pushki is that the burn can take about 4 hours to show up so you don’t realize your mistake right away.
As the blisters were infected I popped them with a sterile needle and then used a cotton swab to press out the infected liquid and mop it up. Then I put a pad of second skin across all of the burnt areas and wrapped it with tape. I got all kinds of questions all week about what kind of a fight I got into. Now it has healed enough to take the wrappings off but it is still an angry scarry red which looks rather like something large sunk it's teeth into my hand. I'm not sure how I only burned that portion of my hand and not more. I wonder if my swim in the lake may have helped as you can escape reaction if you can wash pushki off your skin before exposing yourself to sunlight. Thankfully DOG escaped it all together, an acquaintance's dog got in the stuff the same weekend and is intense pain, suffering full body burns.