Moving abroad, whether you are teaching, studying, interning, volunteering or just traveling for an extended period of time, is complicated. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or in the private-jet-owning tax bracket. The experience can be thrilling, energizing and eye-opening, but it can also be incredibly challenging in a number of ways that go far beyond learning to cope with a culture that doesn’t eat dinner until 10 pm.
We’re a nation of gardeners and love walking in the countryside. But rural rambles can bring perils. 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.
According to the Natural History Museum, the old wives’ tale that the dock leaf (pictured right) 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.
Giant hogweed can grow up to five metres tall, often along foot-paths and riverbanks. If the sap of the plant comes into contact with your skin, it can cause severe, painful burns and make your skin sensitive to strong sunlight.
What to do: If you touch a giant hogweed, cover the affected area, and wash it with soap and water. The blisters heal very slowly and can develop into phytophotodermatitis, a type of skin rash which flares up in sunlight. If you feel unwell after contact with giant hogweed, speak to your doctor.
Thorns, needles or spines from plants such as roses, holly, blackberry bushes, brambles can cause infections or other medical problems if they become implanted in your skin.
What to do: Remove thorns with tweezers – sometimes this is easier after soaking the area in warm water for a few minutes. Avoid injuries by teaching children how to check for plants with spiny leaves or thorns and always wear gardening gloves when you handle thorny plants.
Until tomorrow: One advantage of talking to yourself is that you know at least somebody’s listening. 

Dorothy Prats
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