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Poinsettia Plants – Poisonous or Not? Let’s Put it to Rest

Posted: December 6th, 2011 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Nothing says the holidays quite like bright lights, trees and other decorations; and no holiday decor would seem complete without those pretty poinsettias. Although poinsettias are a fixture around many homes this time of year, calls to the IPC increase from concerned parents, grandparents, and caretakers of small children (or pets), wanting to know if poinsettias are safe. Well here’s the scoop, in association with some information we derived from an excellent review article entitled, “Poinsettia Exposures Have Good Outcomes…Just As We Thought.”

The myth of the poisonous poinsettia plant first came about in 1920 when a child allegedly died after eating a portion of this festive plant. This story was based on hearsay and never proven. According to the review article published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, during a specified 8 year period, over 22,000 children had eaten portions of poinsettia plants and nearly 100% of those children were absolutely free of symptoms. Nausea and vomiting were rarely reported.

During the same time period, greater than 1,000 children who handled poinsettia leaves were evaluated. Only 18% of these children experienced any type of skin irritation that was described as mild and was relieved by washing with a little soap and water.

According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, pets may experience some mild stomach upset, vomiting, or drooling if the poinsettia plant is eaten. Regardless if it’s your child(ren) or pet(s) you’re concerned about, it’s safe to say, that poinsettia plants are not the deadly threat they were once reported to be. Therefore, there is no need to exclude them from your holiday decor.

So if you invite Percy or any of his buddies to your home this holiday season, enjoy them, but like all non-edible items, keep them in a safe place away from holiday helpers (children) who might mistake one of these for an interesting looking holiday treat. Remember, the staff at the Illinois Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 will be on duty 24/7 even during the upcoming holidays if you need us.Don’t forget to check out the “My Child Ate…” resource center which gives toxicity level and treatment information for the most common substances/products ingested by children.
Have a wonderful holiday and a safe and healthy New Year.
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One Comment on “Poinsettia Plants – Poisonous or Not? Let’s Put it to Rest”

  1. 1 Mart Jalakas, M.D. said at 4:25 pm on November 24th, 2014:

    After 36 years of working as a full time ER physician, I only saw one plant poisoning of a child, and that was a mentally retarded child. There are a few poisonous plants such as belladonna, foxglove and castor beans, but most taste so bad that a normal child will not ingest enough to cause hadm. Even tobacco is poisonous, but, despite its common availability, poisonings from ingestion are not seen.


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