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Clin Exp Dermatol. 1991 Jan;16(1):1-7.

Contact urticaria due to the common stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)--histological, ultrastructural and pharmacological studies.

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Institute of Dermatology, St Thomas's Hospital, London, UK.


A frequent cause of contact urticaria is skin exposure to the common stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). The urticaria is accompanied by a stinging sensation lasting longer than 12 h. Little is known of the cellular and molecular mechanism of stinging-nettle urticaria. After preliminary pharmacological analysis of pro-inflammatory activity in nettle stings, the cellular response of mononuclear cells, polymorphonuclear cells and mast cells was examined in six people 5 min and 12 h after nettle contact. Only mast cell numbers were significantly increased at 12 h. Ultrastructurally, some mast cells showed evidence of degranulation at 5 min and 12 h. At 12 h mast cells were closely associated with dermal dendritic cells and lymphocytes suggesting a functional unit. The mean histamine and serotonin contents of a nettle hair were found to be 6.1 ng and 33.25 pg, respectively. Nettle-sting extracts did not demonstrate histamine release from dispersed rat mast cells in vitro. These results suggest that part of the immediate reaction to nettle stings is due to histamine introduced by the nettle. However, the persistence of the stinging sensation might suggest the presence of substances in nettle fluid directly toxic to nerves or capable of secondary release of other mediators.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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