Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Avoid irritation of stinging nettles when day hiking with kids

Stinging nettle.
Photo courtesy UW-Stevens Point.
One annoying little plant you may encounter on a day hike is the stinging nettle. A common perennial, they are abundant in the Pacific Northwest and other regions that receive a lot of rain.

A histamine on the plant’s stem and leaf hairs irritates skin and can even cause a rash. Children with sensitive skin may even break into a rash, though the plant isn’t toxic.

Stinging nettles are easy to identify. Rising anywhere from three to seven feet high, their leaves are serrated. They also tend to grow in farm fields, ditches, and near buildings, especially abandoned ones.

To avoid stinging needles, stay away from edges of trails, don’t go bushwhacking (especially across former farm fields), and avoid getting close to buildings with weeds.

In case you should rub against a stinging nettle, use aloe vera on the irritated skin to get some quick relief. If you get a rash – usually raised bumps on the skin – mix baking soda and water into a paste, and apply that to the spots.

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.