How Do You Get Wild Parsnip Rash? Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment

Many people are attracted by the blooming yellow umbel of wild parsnip when they go along the highways or roadside. However, wild parsnip is the last thing that you should come in contact with, as its sap can cause serious burns and blisters on arms and legs or the area of body which comes in contact with it.

Wild parsnip is yellow flowering plant which has its origin in Europe and Asia. Early settlers in North America are believed to have brought wild parsnip for utilizing its edible root. Wild parsnip is a weed that grows in sunny areas in abundance.

The flowering weed has become human concern because the sap from its thick stems and leaves can cause skin irritation when a person comes in contact with it.

The sap from broken leaves and stem has a chemical called psoralen. When it touches the skin and if the skin is exposed to sunlight, the result is severe skin irritation, blisters, burns and pigmentation for a long period of time. In medical parlance, this condition is called phyto photodermatitis.

Many people consider it to be an allergic reaction, but it is not. The toxin in the sap is a cause.

The skin absorbs the toxin and produces symptoms of parsnip rash. While a mild reaction may be unnoticed, severe cases may need to be treated sometimes with medications.

Symptoms Of Wild Parsnip Rash

Once the toxin in sap is absorbed by skin and the person is exposed to UV rays of sunlight, symptoms develop. The affected area becomes red and painful. It appears like sunburn in the beginning. Wild parsnip rash usually develops in streaks as the broken leaf or stem rubs against the skin. Parsnip rash occurs only when the sap touches the skin. Skin irritation and burning caused by wild parsnip as compared to other plants like poison ivy is less severe.

The symptoms usually occur within one or two days after the exposure. Tiny fluid filled blisters develop after exposure to which may be painful and itchy. The rash is usually seen on arms, legs, face and torso. Once the blisters rupture, the skin begins to heal. But in some people, the dark pigmentation which is left behind after healing may remain for years.

How To Prevent And Treat Wild Parsnip Rash?

The first preventive measure that you have to take after exposure to wild parsnip is to prevent sunlight and rinsing the area immediately with water. However, do not rub the area as this may increase the risk of sap getting deeper in the skin and aggravating the condition.

Use soap water after cleaning the area with plain water to remove the residual sap. Use cold water to flush the juice as warm water will enlarge the pores and make it easy for the sap to enter the skin. Also avoid sweating and exposure to warm weather.

When the rash has developed, place a moist wet cloth over the area. It helps alleviate burning and itching. Avoid rubbing or massaging the area which may aggravate the rash. In some cases, blisters may develop after exposure to sunlight. Avoid rupture of blisters as it acts as an effective shield for preventing infection.

If the blisters are ruptured and open, clean the area with soap and water and apply antibiotic ointment or aloe vera gel. Cover the area with a bandage. Change the dressing as required. If the blisters are large or extremely painful, consult your doctor. Wild parsnip rash should be treated as early as possible to prevent pigmentation in the long run.