What are the symptoms of nettle stings?


Quick Answer

The stinging nettle plant causes symptoms such as red itchy swelling, a burning or stinging sensation, itchy white bumps, and, in some cases, a severe allergic reaction that leads to diarrhea, cramps and wheezing, states Baylor Scott & White Health.

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Full Answer

The nettle plant has broad leaves that are covered in hairs, according to Baylor Scott & White Health. These tiny hairs break off and stick in the skin, releasing a substance called formic acid that causes irritation. This causes a release of histamine, which is also a skin irritant. Both formic acid and histamine lead to fluid build up in the skin, causing the rash associated with the stinging nettle plant. In severe cases, the swelling extends to other areas of the body including the eyes, lips, tongue and larynx.

A person exposed to stinging nettle should wash his hands, according to Baylor Scott & White Health. This typically causes any discomfort to dissipate. The application of cold cloths to the skin or taking cold baths is also beneficial. An over-the-counter antihistamine, aloe vera and calamine lotion may be used for relief of itching and hives. A person experiencing difficulty breathing or wheezing, swelling or itching all over the body, a swollen mouth, or tightness in the chest or throat should seek immediate medical assistance or emergency medical help, as a severe reaction is occurring.

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