Stinging nettles

What do they look like?

Stinging nettles are low plants with small leaves which often grow alongside country paths, or in large patches on the ground in forest or wooded areas.

Their leaves are not particularly distinctive and so it is important to pay attention to plants you may brush up against.

It is most often young children who scamper unawares into clumps of stinging nettles and then suffer the consequences for several days. If you take young children for a walk, pay attention to the plants around you and teach them to recognise stinging nettles.

Why should they be avoided?

One of the most widespread plants in the UK, stinging nettles are the bane of many a country walk. Nettle leaves are covered in tiny, needle-like hairs. When you brush against a nettle, the hairs break off, penetrate your skin and sting you, producing the charactersitc burning, itching sensation and rash.

The rash is very painful and usually lasts for several days.

How can I avoid it?

Learn to recognise stinging nettles and avoid coming into contact with them.

What to do if they sting me?

According to the Natural History Museum, the old wives’ tale that the dock leaf is an effective natural remedy for a stinging nettle rash is true. The dock leaf, says the museum, contains chemicals that when rubbed over the sting, neutralise it and cool the skin down.

If you get stung by a nettle, look out for a dock leaf to rub on the rash. Dock leaves usually grow close to nettles.

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