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Agonising encounter ends hike

Margaret Paterson’s hand still throbs some three weeks after coming into contact with a Gympie Gympie.
Margaret Paterson’s hand still throbs some three weeks after coming into contact with a Gympie Gympie. Tanya Easterby

NEARLY three weeks later and Gympie woman Margaret Paterson's hand still flares up with pain after an excruciating encounter with the infamous Gympie Gympie stinging tree.

Ms Paterson's confrontation with one of the world's most painful plants to touch, which lends its name to the town of Gympie, occurred during a family barbecue at Mothar Mountain.

She had taken the hiking trail up to Mt Boulder with her daughter and was nearly back at the carpark when she came face to face with the Gympie Gympie stinging tree.

Ms Paterson's daughter had spotted a beautiful plant bearing berries and the pair stopped on the trail to admire the sight.

Less than a metre off the trail was the stinging tree and the back of Ms Paterson's hand brushed one of the leaves.

As soon as she felt the bristling sensation on her hand and spotted the distinctive heart-shaped leaves, her heart sunk.

"As soon as I touched it, I realised," she said.

It was at this moment the family's relaxing day at Mothar Mountain soured.

"My hand started to swell immediately and the burning pain started," Ms Paterson said.

The Gympie Gympie stinging tree has leaves peppered by minuscule silicon hairs that when touched release a toxin.

"I couldn't see them with my naked eye but I knew they were there and I sure felt it," Ms Paterson said.

The family's barbecue was cut short and Mt Paterson soon found herself at the Gympie Hospital Emergency Department.

A medical team injected her fingers with anaesthetic to deaden the pain and an Elastoplast was used to pull the hairs off Ms Paterson's hand.

After leaving the emergency department, the Gympie woman's daughter consulted the internet for advice.

"We read you could use hydrochloric acid, diluted to 15%, to soak the affected area for half an hour and then use wax removal strips to rip the hairs out," Ms Paterson said.

"It was important to not re-apply the wax strips because that would just push the fine hairs back into my hand and sting me all over again."

The Gympie Gympie victim compared her experience to childbirth and when quizzed about her pain by doctors, gave a 15/10 rating.

"Off the scale," she said.

Almost a month later, Ms Paterson still receives shocks of pain when her hand is exposed to cool water.

"I want people to be aware and to learn from my experience," she said.

Topics:  injury mothar mountain

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