Stinging nettles

What does it look like?

Stinging nettles are low, small leaves which often grow alongside country paths, or in large patches spreading over a large area of the ground in forest or wooded areas.

They have relatively anonymous looking leaves so it is important to pay attention to plants as you walk close to them.

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 you are passing on their behalf.

Why is it dangerous?

One of the most widespread plants in the UK, stinging nettles (pictured left) are the bane of many a country walk, especially for small children. 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 familiar burning sensation, itch and rash.

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

How can I avoid it?

Learn to recognise stinging nettles and carefully avoid touching them.

What to do if it stings me?

According to the Natural History Museum, the old wives’ tale that the dock leaf is an effective natural remedy for 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.

What to do: 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. It’s also a good idea to teach toddlers what stinging nettles look like so they can avoid them.

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