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Bamboo dermatitis? Rash?

Carrie B
13 years ago

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?

{{gwi:421989}}

Comments (76)

  • r446758
    6 years ago

    I bought my current house 30 years ago. It came with the bamboo (aptly nicknamed "damnboo" as we have paid to have it removed a half dozen times and it still returns). This is an allergy to it. I have it as well. I don't have to be too involved with it to get that reaction. Currently nursing both forearms. I do wear gloves and long sleeves when around it, but that only lessens the problem. Note: I have had landscapers turn me down as a client because they don't want to deal with the bamboo. Want to get even with someone? Talk them into planting bamboo ...

  • PRO
    Chris Knight Garden maintenance
    6 years ago

    Thanks, I need to tame mine, it is a good screen but more invasive than I anticipated.

    I think I am susceptible to the glocid like fur on the younger sheathes.

    I did hope it all might flower which tends to end a Bamboo's life but a doctor of horticulture tells me that some clones never appear to flower.

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  • Blake Brehm
    6 years ago

    Yesterday, I was with some friends behind a local carwash where there no plants but American bamboo, then this morning while I was in the shower I was experiencing a burning sensation on my face so turned the got water almost the whole way off and it still burnt... I thought maybe it was a chemical burn from something I used but your rash looks exactly like mine (only mines all-over my face) and it started swelling look uner my eyes

  • Carrie B
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    What is "American bamboo?"

  • kentuck_
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Arundinaria's such as A. gigantea aka River Cane, is known as American Bamboo since it is native to North America.

  • traxx003
    6 years ago

    I worked with bamboo for several years (same location/ bamboo) and never had any issues then one day I turned up allergic to it . I use a spray called IVY-DRY SUPER. Its for poison whatever insect bites etc works great, altho a bit pricey ($12.00) well worth it. Good luck

  • Cyndi Brast
    5 years ago

    My husband and I have both had the same rash from the bamboo. It's a type of contact dermatitis that is very similar to poison ivy with weeping blisters. I also notice a very strong odor coming from the bamboo every year in the summertime. It's a nice way to block out the neighbors, but I also hate it!!!

  • kudzu9
    5 years ago

    Cyndi-

    I've grown over 100 varieties of bamboo, and bamboo do not have any distinctive odor that I know of except for Phyllostachys atrovaginata, which is known as incense bamboo as it has a faint odor like sandalwood. If you are getting a very strong odor, it could be another plant nearby, or something in the ground that has no relation to the bamboo.

  • PRO
    Chris Knight Garden maintenance
    5 years ago

    I think the consistent thread is experience of allergy to bamboo rather than its smell! However I will flare my nostrils when I pass the bamboo. A previous contributor likened it to glass fibre rash: as a child I inadvertently got into a sack my father had used to store glass fibre and suffered this. I suspect I have the American bamboo (I thought all bamboos were oriental) and it is most irritant when the stems are young and covered in a light brown fur.




  • PRO
    Chris Knight Garden maintenance
    5 years ago

    Going back over the posts I think I more likely have Pseudosasa japonica and I incude a core quote from Matty_j86 post "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! "

  • kentuck_
    5 years ago

    You aren't talking about Arundo donax, are you? It has a smell to it and yes, it stinks. It has small hairlike fibers on it also that can cause a rash. Can you post a picture of what you have?

  • jjonmaui
    4 years ago

    Just a note since it seems like this thread has been thoroughly covered. My son (8) was running around in our yard, and ran into our Mexican Weeping Bamboo (Otatea acuminata) and pushed it away with his left arm. Within a day he got severe urticaria and hives on his left arm and hand where he touched the bamboo. It was strange since he only got the reaction below his shirt sleeve, only on one arm, and only one hand. Did a complete internet search for urticaria/hives causes, and had to re-live the last few days of food he ate, things he did, and we found it to be the bamboo. It was his fast running into the branches hanging low, and his pushing the bamboo away from his body that caused it! We are now using antihistamine cream and relaxation to bring a cure.

  • Anna Burton
    4 years ago

    This is very interesting. Although I've never worked with bamboos but sold bamboo furniture before and did not have this problem.

  • Debbie Humphrey
    4 years ago

    I carried bundles of bamboo fencing from Home Depot and worked all day unrolling the preformed 8 foot long Pamela and installing them in my yard. I am red like poison ivy rash all on my inner arms up to my armpits and inner legs where I held the bundles. So there is either an allergy to bamboo (although there were no hairs or sprinters because it was dried and stained) and so I wonder if it was chemical too? All I know is it’s week 3 of deep notching and I’m on Zyrtec topical cream and steroid shot and it’s still here!

  • kudzu9
    4 years ago

    I don't know if this is true, but there is also the possibility that the bamboo was chemically treated to reduce rotting or to ward off insect infestation. Just a thought....

  • Jesse Gilbert
    4 years ago

    Lesson learned lol

  • Angel Luis
    4 years ago

    I was trimming some low hanging bamboo and in the process I got the same reaction everyone is speaking of. Funny thing i have done this a few times with no reaction from the bamboo. But this is the hot season here in Thailand and i was sweating so what ever it was had a chance to stick to me. Only got the rash neck and arms where I was exposed.

  • Kayleen Takase
    4 years ago

    This afternoon, my shirtless boyfriend cut some bamboo branches (bambusa chungii). As he was cutting it, he said he felt like he was being stabbed by a thousand needles. He jumped into the swimming pool but the pain got worse. He took benadryl, which took the edge off the pain. He has cut the bamboo many times (perhaps with a shirt on) and has never had a reaction like today. I wonder if this is one of the species with all the prickly little hairs (the bamboo, not my boyfriend!).

  • kudzu9
    4 years ago

    Kayleen-

    I've grown well over 100 species of bamboo, and I can say that some bamboo culms have less smooth surfaces than others, but I am unaware of bamboo that have "prickly little hairs." I, myself, have never had a reaction to any bamboo. Do you have a picture of the bamboo that you think caused this (possibly allergic) reaction in your boyfriend?

  • Missy Baker
    3 years ago

    I just joined the rash club. We bought a house with clumping pseudosasa japonica bamboo along backyard fence behind pool. I went back there with shorts, sleeveless shirt, and flip flops and got all in it pulling out the rotten and cutting out dead ones for a few hours 2 days ago. Came in with my forearms covered in a raised red rash. No itching or pain though but small thin cuts all over and one cut stalk flipped back in my eye and scratched it. Went to eye Doc today. Taking antibiotic drops. The arm rash is looking a little better today. I’m done with that! I warned my husband....

  • Phillip Sully
    3 years ago


    ... n'tn't

  • kudzu9
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Missy-

    I'd be interested to see a photo of your bamboo. Pseudosasa japonica is not a clumping bamboo. Also, I'm curious about some of it being "rotten" as I've never had that problem with any of my bamboo. When I thin out bamboo I always need to use a pruner or lopper to remove dead culms, regardless of species.

  • HU-972453711
    3 years ago

    1st July 2019, Trixie

    my partner cut our bamboo back in 2004 exposed skin became red,hard,lumpy & itchy

    Hydrocortisone 17-butyrate

    relieved the condition which keeps recurring even now!!

    Any other treatments please!!

  • trish trish
    3 years ago

    I Trimmed Japanese Arrow Bamboo today (first time) and both arms broke out in a rash! I scrubbed my arms with soap and water and applied Witch Hazel. Really helped!!

  • Sonia Maxan
    2 years ago

    Bamboo always make me itchy. Wear long sleeves to work around them and cover your eyes with sunglasses or safety glasses. Too late for that?

    Put some calamine after your shower!

  • lyndee sea
    2 years ago

    My name is lyndee Sea I live on the North Shore Of Oahu Hawaii and I came into contact with yellow bamboo with green stripes Fine brown hairs located on the lower rizomes there is something called a culm sheath that is only present on the new shoots as the 30 foot high bamboo starts to shoot it's leaves out to the side the culm sheaths fall away. the culm sheaths are covered in microscopic hypodermic barbed neddles coved in cyanide and filled with a poison similar to posion ivy. This is one of the most posions plants there are, I was helping my neighbor and thought it to be best to help him clear out all the new 30' shoots that hadn't started to branch out therefor it was eaiser to pull out of the rest of the bamboo. at this stage the bamboo is weak and not good for building so i dont think its common for people to come into contact with the actual culm sheaths. I threw the bamboo over my shoulder to carry it and i tapped all these hais from the culm sheath into my face on october 31st 2015 At the time i had been working alrewady for hours in the yard it was extrmely humid out and i was sweating prefuselly. it was also right at sunset so the sheaths were not to noticeable. i took out about 8 stocks of fresh 30' bamboo out of at 30'x30' patch of bamboo that had been there atleast 130 years (i new that patch actually had flowered 30 years prior ). i was wearing a mans buttonup longsleve shirt, gloves, work pants ,and yard shoes. i was wearing no mask or safety glasses. as i worked i wipoed the sweat from my face and unknowingly smeared the hais into hairline and down off my mouth to the back of my check. my top two buttons were unbuttoned on my shirt so my chest was also exposed. I have suffered extreme pain, iching, blistering, oozing fluid s and am just now starting to have some relief my face stung like fire for 4 years. I got sick and slept for weeks i thought i had lice my head wouldnt stop itching for over a month and it still happens when i get really hot or something makes it come out. It took 3 weeks before a blister on my face and i noticed a bunch of blisters on top of my ears which broke open and my face swelled masivly i thought i had a staff infection (I have photos to document for the last 4 years) went to Kaiser the docotor i saw was uneducated on plants and perscribed antibiotics to me which turns out is the worst thing to do because the hairs are barbed your body has to create swelling and fluid to push these toxic poisonous hair out. if you stop the swelling with anti inflamation drugs you are just stopping it's natural process so you end up literally having to extract it yourself. which is a catch 22 cause it releases the posion which you become more alleric to the more your exposed to it. where i tapped the bamboo into my face i had what looked like a black tatoo for over a year which was just more hairs cutting off the oxygen to my face. i found Golden seal powder works, alea dirt clay work, hibiscuss shoot i found most effective. though the hairs are microcopic some become translucent and sharp and stick to you. i found using a q-tip only one swipe cause the next swipe you can cause reentry and wet not dry.

    I am willing and would like to talk ,share, show photos, be researched on, and do more research to anyone who has questions please contact me I am hoping Trixie from 3 comments above contacts me my number is (808)349-2383

    there is so much to it all i hope this helps

  • kudzu9
    2 years ago

    Trixie-

    Thanks for your first hand experience. It may be that particular bamboo as I have grown over 100 different species and handled them all, pruned them, dug them off, and stripped off culm sheaths and never had a problem.

    One other thing: it's not wise to post personal info like your phone number on this or any other public forum. I suggest you edit your post to remove it; then go into your account here on GardenWeb and enable the setting that allows other members to message you through the GardenWeb system. This will help keep you safer and maintain your privacy.

  • PRO
    Anton Valentine Interiors
    2 years ago

    I have just experienced the same itchy scratched arms having pushed through a large patch of bamboo to get to the other side to remove some other bushes.
    it wasnt painful at the time, but it is like I have itching powder or nettle stings on my arms.
    its very irritating!
    Lets make sure we all wear long sleeves when next cutting and dealing with large common bamboo!.

  • kandace knudson
    2 years ago

    Same reaction from little dried black hairs: welts! I immediately rinsed them off and then applied lavender essential oil, which took away the itching and made the bumps almost disappear.


  • Jan Walker
    2 years ago

    We had a large area of standard bamboo that had grown far too big, my husband and I cut it all down in March of this year and piled it up to dry off, 2 weeks ago I decided to trim and tidy the pile into various sizes of canes. I worked on them for a few hours and then the next day I woke to find a rash on my legs and arms and face. Luckily I take an antihistamine tablet every day for another allergy throughout the spring and summer months and this helped to reduce itching. I applied an antiseptic cream to the rash which also helped to cool the rash and help with healing. After a couple of days the rash had changed to lots of small blisters and I looked as though someone had been beating me with burning sticks!!



    I then started to feel really tired, by 6 or 7 days, I was so fatigued I could hardly walk, all my joints ached so badly I was having to dose myself up with Ibuprofen just to get through the day. It is now nearly 2 weeks down the line and the rash has almost gone, but I have some nasty scarring and my joints have calmed down, but now my sinuses are playing up. I spoke with my doctor and she said it sounded as though my whole body had taken a severe "hit" from this allergic reaction to the bamboo and that it could take another week or so to completely get over it and that I would by hyper sensitive to bamboo for several months!...... I told her not to worry, I'm not going anywhere near the stuff......every again!!!

  • HU-962373101
    2 years ago

    I've had the bamboo rash myself. I also get a cough and runny nose if I work too long cutting my bamboo hedge. I have to be very careful now when cutting it, handling it mostly with thick gardening gloves, and I use an allergy mask. I eventually developed severe gastrointestinal upset from grains and unrefined cane sugar. It's a grass allergy. So, if you've had a bamboo rash, you may have a larger problem with grasses in general, especially the ones you consume. It's worth getting checked out by an allergist. I went decades not knowing I had this grass allergy until I eventually got very sick from GI problems. Sometimes things aren't bad enough to easily identify the problem. My bamboo rash was a big clue, though. If I'd had it checked out when it first happened, I could have avoided more serious illness later from eating grains.

  • Jan Walker
    2 years ago

    that's extremely interesting. Thanks, will get checked out.

  • Nikki Fagan
    2 years ago

    We just bought a roll of bamboo from Home Depot. Noticed another comment above about this. My son helped carry it from the car and then we installed it on a wall in his bedroom. He woke up and looked like he’d been punched in the face-swollen eyelids and tiny-bumped rash all over nose and cheeks. His face is very puffy. After doing a telemed meeting with pediatrician (bc of Covid), she came up with no answers aside from some type of topical allergy. Google brought me here. I think I have my answer now.

  • Richard Crawford
    2 years ago

    I s just got the same rash all o wr my fore arms very saw itchy and prickilly not nice hope it goes away as it look horrible


  • Jan Walker
    2 years ago

    Hi Richard, take an antihistamine as soon as you can. It definitely helps a lot, you might need to take them for a few days. Rgds

  • Deborah Rose
    2 years ago

    There is also Benadryl cream. Try that ad well

  • HU-113949426
    2 years ago

    Does anyone know if bamboo sheets (processed bamboo) cause the same allergic reaction as raw bamboo?

  • kudzu9
    2 years ago

    Don’t know, but I highly doubt it. Big difference between something that is actively growing and something that is dead, inert, and processed.

  • HU-113949426
    2 years ago

    Kudzu9, thanks so much for responding so quickly!

  • Carrie B
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    I am the original author of this post, and I love my bamboo sheets.

  • HU-635713984
    2 years ago

    I'm super sensitive to our bamboo and end up with a poison ivy-like rash when I handle it. I have been wondering though if the reaction could possibly be caused by mites in the bamboo after discovering these super tiny creatures when I put one of the leaves under the microscope. The leaves do have tiny hairs though and they are just as likely to be the cause of the problem. Bamboo fabrics, cutting boards, and other processed items don't cause any reaction though, so you should be ok.

  • HU-208473544
    2 years ago

    i was out with some friends and we saw some bamboo sticks. of course we decided to pick them up and whack each other with them because we are 5 at heart but then I noticed sharp pains in my hands and I look and see a bunch of tiny hair like needles. I was so confused so I just started pulling them out with my fingers I haven't had a rash yet but maybe its yet to come....

  • kudzu9
    2 years ago

    HU-

    Are you sure they were bamboo? I've handled hundreds of different species of bamboo and never had that issue, and particularly hair like needles. There are several plants that people confuse with bamboo because they have some similarities.

  • HU-881877312
    last year

    One more comment. We bought a house with lots of bamboo shielding us from the cemetery next door. Spent the spring cutting down some canes and digging up new growth, but not until late June did I develop what seems to be the standard rash/burn/weeping sores on my arms. Today is day 10 and the old sores and rash seem to be healing, but I am still breaking out in other ones. Being a veteran of poison ivy flare ups, I had topical cremes to put on, but it didn't seem to work on this. Or perhaps it did, and it could have been much worse. Cool/ice compresses seem to be the most soothing and drying. A dermatologist once advised me regarding the poison ivy that the best method is to wait it out. But if anyone else has other suggestions, do tell!! In the meantime, I am glad to have found this thread. Misery loves company!!!

  • Chris Drake
    last year

    Some Bamboo is covered in glochids - millions of tiny splinters that look exactly like the hairs you already have on your body. They itch like crazy, and probably worse if you're allergic to them.

  • Wayne Remington
    last year

    SO a friend of mine gave me a camping pad that was the regular foam in the center wrapped by bamboo cloth and then zipped up into cotton covering Well I took the foam wrapped in bamboo cloth out and used them as cushions under my cushions on my couch! Well lets just say that since ive done this i have had a reaction on my skin that i though was folliculitis until last night when i used a flashlight and realized that there are hundreds of millions of little tiny blonde sharp hairs everywhere in my living room now I mean everywhere! I feel things poke me when i move and i thought at one point I Was infested with mites or was going crazy but no its the bamboo fibers and I am allergic to them!!!!!!

  • Chris Drake
    last year

    @Wayne - do you have a microscope? I was wondering what exactly these things look like - long story - Bamboo is 5 times stronger than steel, and I'm guessing their glochids are a biological defence and possibly even stronger... I'm wondering if adding these to 3D SLA Resin might create a unique new material for making extra-strong 3d prints (better than graphene, which blocks light) ...

  • Lindzi Graham
    last year

    A few months ago I accidentally picked up a tin of bamboo shoots instead of mung bean shoots. Thought what the heck and ate half a tin, within a couple hours I lost my voice, was covered in red welts that eventually joined up and burned and itched like crazy. I accidentally ate a tiny amount in a stir fry last night and woke with a massive rash, itching, lost my voice for hours, dificulty breathing the lot. took anti histamines, and just tried to stay calm and breathe. The rash is gone 8 hours later but voice no great and still look like the michelin man.. Hiding at home today. Chest pain and feeling drained now. Roll on tomorrow

  • Laurie Haley
    5 months ago

    A couple of weeks ago I cut down a bunch of Native American Bamboo to make a trellis and afterwards I see a rash resembling poison ivy on my forearm which was odd because I've never had a reaction to it or poison oak ect and always have been an outdoor person in the woods camp hike. It burned I had welps and then tiny blisters plus itching in later stage before drying up. Fast forward to today I was using the same already cut and dried bamboo for crafts and my forearm that had carried it broke out just like before so I realized it was the bamboo not poison ivy! Last time I used hydrocortisone cream and it seemed to dry it up so here I go again. The last rash just has disappeared from 2 wks ago so I'm guessing another 2 wks to heal. Someone compared it to the feeling of fiberglass getting in your skin I agree the glass shard like feel but more burn with bamboo. Lesson learned....maybe

  • Chris Drake
    5 months ago

    Get some packing-tape, stick in on the "rash", and pull it off again - that extracts most of the tiny hair-like spikes you've picked up :-)