Are your Christmas houseplants poisonous? If you have children or pets, you may need to heed caution this holiday season.
Next to mistletoe, no plant is more closely associated with the holidays than the poinsettia. The red-topped shrub is adored by many for its beauty but rumored to be toxic.
The poinsettia is a plant, native to Mexico and was first brought to the United States in the 1820’s. It gained reputation for being deadly when a 2-year-old boy died in Hawaii and the cause was mistakenly attributed to eating a poinsettia. Parent’s magazines, medical books, guides and even doctors warn to keep the flower out of reach of children and pets. More recent testing has proven that the beautiful plants toxicity is nothing more than a false alarm.
Studies show that poinsettias are harmless although they can irritate the skin and upset the stomach if consumed in large quantities. A study conducted by Ohio State University found that even in rats, the flower was not toxic. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine reported that not one fatality was found among 22,793 cases of exposure to the plant. 92% of all exposed persons showed no signs of sickness and received no medical treatment. Today the National Capital Poison Center in Washington, DC and poison control centers list the plant as non-poisonous. According to the Madison Poison Control Center, a 50-pound child would need to eat 500-600 leaves to suffer any ill effects. In the worse case, a child would exhibit symptoms of upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea upon consumption of the plant. Playing with the leaves could cause minor skin irritations and children who rub their eyes afterwards could experience eye redness and irritation. The greatest threat that the plant poses is the potential of choking if the object were to obstruct the child’s airway.
This holiday season sit back and enjoy the beauty of the plant with out worrying. Caution should be exercised with all houseplants within reach of children.
Various other houseplants and dangerous and may be fatal. Those plants include holly and mistletoe. Consumption of large amounts of mistletoe berries has been known to cause fatal illnesses. Ingestion of a few berries can result in stomachache and diarrhea while larger amounts have been fatal in infants and young children. Holly, another common Christmas decoration, can be fatal as well. The berries of these two plants can be very appealing to children and infants but will cause serious illness and may be fatal.
Experts say that it may be a good idea to keep poinsettias out of the reach of children and animals despite their harmless nature but be careful where you leave mistletoe and holly. Make this holiday a happy one, not one of loss all because of a houseplant.