Bamboo dermatitis? Rash?

Carrie B(6B/7A)August 7, 2009

I spent several hours this morning pruning, thinning and generally cleaning out bamboo in a new garden client's garden. I have very little experience working with bamboo, this being only my second bamboo-related job. I don't remember having this reaction the last time...

My arms, and, to a lesser degree, my neck, are covered with irritation and scratches. I also have blistery/pimply looking bumps all over my arms. My arms are a bit tingly, as well.

Is this common? If you've had a similar reaction, have you used a product to minimize the reaction?

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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

I've never experienced this or heard of this, and I work with bamboo a lot. That's not to say that it couldn't happen or that you don't have a special sensitivity. However, I would think something else was the cause. Does your client use chemical sprays of any kind that might have left a residue on the leaves?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 10:50PM
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Carrie B(6B/7A)

Thanks, kudzu. I can't imagine that the client uses anything - especially since he hires someone (me) to care for his garden. I work as a gardener, so spend lots of time outdoors with a large variety of ornamental plants. I don't think I've every experienced this reaction before, but I am certain that it was caused by the bamboo; I first noticed the reaction in my car, on the way home from the bamboo job.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 10:59PM
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The only problem I've had with any of my bamboos, comes from the fine 'hairs' on the culm sheaths, usually on the larger bamboos, like Oldhamii.

The sheaths, even after falling off are covered with dark short fibers that will make me itch, like itching powder, but I've never had an allergic reaction to it. The fibers are difficult to see.

If any gets down the inside of my shirt on my back, I have to wash it off or it drives me crazy with it's itching. The fibers cannot be wiped off, they have to be washed off.


    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 11:22PM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

Do you know what kind(s) of bamboo you were dealing with? And were you working bare-handed?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 12:28PM
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Carrie B(6B/7A)

Kentucky - I think the fibers are exactly what affected me!

Kudzu - I don't know what kind of bamboo, though someone, when I showed photos, said it might be a sasa. The foliage is fairly large compared to other bamboo, and the culms mostly no larger than 1/2 inch thick. They seem to reach a height of about 8' at the tallest.

I asked a couple friends from a local arboretum what they thought it was, and they both agree that both the undersides of the leaves, and the stalks, have scratchy fibers.

The bamboo refuse all needed to be stuffed into large contractor trash bags (five full ones, in all) so I'm fairly certain that the damage happened then. I was wearing gloves, but also a short sleeved t-shirt. Next time, a long sleeved shirt might be called for!

The redness has gone away, though I still have scratches and some irritated pimple-type things. I think I will survive. ~grin~

    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 6:41PM
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same thing happened to me today. Im not used to working with bamboo, and boy oh boy... it may be awhile before i do it again.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2009 at 1:06AM
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I agree, I think it's the fine hairs that are making you itch. When I was young we had large bamboos that you could use to eat. We would cut them then carry it back to our truck. Just by carrying it I would have arms that would like that because the tiny hairs would aggravate my skin.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 1:42PM
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The same thing just happened to me. I was trimming my bamboo, I started to get itchy and then I got a blistery rash on my arms. Gloves and a long sleeved shirt next time.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 2:36PM
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It's actually the edges of the leaves that are cutting you, it's just like paper cuts. I remove bamboo groves for people and I get this every time I go. When you are in a grove you don't really notice it until you start sweating and then it burns. The edges of the leaves are tesselated like serrated knives. Lots of grasses will do this as well. Like Maiden grass I don't suggest doing this but if you run your finger tip along the leaves you will feel it. I carry bamboo under my arms and it cuts me to shreds. Plus in a grove branches will scratch you when you're working you don't notice it until later.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 2:15PM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

This is an interesting thread. I've been working with bamboo for years and never get a rash and never get small cuts. I usually work in my groves with gloves on and a tee shirt. I'm not sure why there is such a wide range of experience.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 3:14PM
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The reaction that you experienced is indeed from the bamboo- most notably from the hairs that are on the culm sheaths. I don't have any experience with any of the tropicals, but here in the pnw, the only culprit that I have seen do this is japanese arrow bamboo, Pseudosasa japonica.

I have worked large Sasa groves of a couple of different species, and never had this reaction, but japonica is one that you want as much skin covered as possible. It's not debilitating, but its dang annoying for a couple of days, and the red rash lasts quite a

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 4:14AM
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gmerrill is right! We bought a house 2 months ago and there is Pseudosasa japonica bamboo EVERYWHERE! We have been trying to trim them but we have noticed that we too start itching immediately. The only way to stop the itch is to take a shower. I still feel the pricklies days later!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 9:13PM
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OMG, I just did that now, trimmed a heap of bamboo along the side of my house and my hands and arms tingle and itch like mad1 covered in tiny little red bumps and scratches. A friend is a horticulturist or whatever it is you call a professor of plant life, aparently some varieties of bamboo contain cyanide, the edges and tips of the leaves cut your skin ever so slightly and when you cut the stem it leaks cyanide into the tiny abrasions and produces an itchy rash! The cyanide type in the bamboo, cyanogenic glycoside is taxiphyllin and disolves in boiling water, obviously you cant put your hands in a vat of boiling water but wash them under some very warm/hot water for a few minutes then once dry apply savlon cream or s mild antiseptic recommended for general rashes and it should reduce the tingling and burning.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 1:35AM
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I get a really bad itching too when I ve trimmed my bamboo back...two different for sure is budda's belly bamboo...and the other I m not sure of its name...however both give me the same reaction....only thing that fixes it for me is to jump into our salt water pool.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 1:26AM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

This seems to me like an individual issue of sensitivity. I'm growing over 80 kinds of bamboo and I prune them frequently...I have never had an allergic reaction to any of the cuttings.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 3:23AM
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Ow. Been cutting down bamboo today and am covered in sore, red raised lines this evening. It didn't hurt at the time and I wasn't aware of any scratching, though my arms did feel itchy/irritated afterwards. I wore gloves but had bare arms.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 5:29PM
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I don't know what causes this, but I have experienced this e every time we have cut bamboo that has invaded our yard (neighbor planted it). A neighbor lent me some diaper rash cream and it did wonders to clear it up. But better to keep areas covered rather than deal with the rash.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 7:27AM
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We have bamboos that make me itchy and get red, raised spots. They have fine hairs (and some have really dark, dense hairs) and I assume that's what's doing it.

A&D diaper ointment is the cheapest, most effective solution for things like that, IMO. Works on dog skin too.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 2:48PM
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I had a rather significant allergic reaction today when I placed my arm around a large bamboo in Selby Gardens, Sarasota, Fla. I had blisters like poison ivy on my right arm(where I touched) and red itchy spots on my left arm. I am a bit allergic to wood and very much to bee stings. I was rather surprised

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 8:08PM
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I just trimmed my bamboo for the first time and after removing trimmings my arms began to itch like crazy; no bumps though. I applied some Benadryl topical ointment after washing my arms and this took away the itch. I also discovered that my lab likes to scratch herself beneath the bamboo along the stalks, when I pet her or she rubs against my leg I was wondering why I started to itch...bamboo fibers! Long shirts and keeping my pets away from the bamboo will need to be new protocols.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 6:47PM
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Trimmed bamboo last week. Wore long shirts and pants, gloves. I broke out on arms and around face and neck. I must really be sensitive to bamboo as this happened last year but less severely. I've decided to remove the clumping bamboo plants from my garden as I can't deal with this every year.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 2:32PM
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