Thursday, June 27, 2019

Wild parsnip may cause skin irritation

Wild parsnip should be considered as a possible cause of skin problems in horses in the summer according to a recent report.

Wild parsnip © Aubrey1 |
Wild parsnip © Aubrey1 |

Although the parsnip root has been used for food for centuries, handling the shoots and leaves of the plant requires caution as the sap is toxic. It contains chemicals known as furanocoumarins,
which can make skin more vulnerable to ultraviolet light. Brushing against or breaking the plant releases sap that when activated by exposure to sunlight can cause a severe burn, a condition known as phytophotodermatitis.

A recent report of an investigation of a natural occurrence of photosensitization of grazing horses identified wild parsnip as the likely cause.

Bryan L.Stegelmeier of the United States Department of Agriculture, Poisonous Plant Research Lab, Logan, UT is  lead author of the report, which is published in the journal Toxicon.

Laboratory analysis of the plant identified five furanocoumarins: (xanthotoxin, bergapten, isopimpinellin, imperatorin and a putative methoxyimperatorin). 

Ingestion of the plant caused minimal problems. Of four goats fed the plant, only one showed mild perivulvar irritation. However severe photodermatitis occurred in both goats and a horse when the plant was applied to the skin.

The authors conclude that wild parsnip-induced superficial necrotizing dermatitis was consistent with photodermatitis with no evidence of other allergic or inflammatory components.

For more details, see: 

Wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)-induced photosensitization
Bryan L.Stegelmeier,  Steven M.Colegate, Edward L.Knoppel, Kerry A.Rood, Mark G.Collett
Toxicon (2019) pii: S0041-0101(19)30180-1

Concussion and mental health in equestrian sports survey

The world of sport is becoming more aware of concussion and mental health problems, but there has been little research specifically related to equestrian sports. This is despite them accounting for a high proportion of sports-related head injuries.

Annika McGivern, an eventer and Equestrian Canada coach from Victoria, British Columbia, is conducting a survey on the topic as part of her studies for an MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology in Belfast, Northern Ireland. 

Her aim is to assess mental health levels in equestrian athletes to develop awareness around the mental health challenges and strengths this group of athletes experience. 

She hopes that the findings of the study may assist with the development of mental health programs that could be designed specifically for equestrian athletes, as well as reducing stigmas associated with mental health that may exist in the equestrian sporting world.

The anonymous survey, which only takes a few minutes to complete, is available online now: