How many times have you squealed aloud after discovering your child has recently delved into what they believe to be a culinary delight but you know to be just plain gross?
While getting outside to allow your brood some time to release excess energy is the primary goal, it may lead to unexpected, and often quite disgusting ingestions.
Maybe that pile of dirt or mud on the playground resembled chocolate cake or pudding when your 2 year old decided to scoop a handful into his mouth. Either way, what is a parent to do?! The good thing is, dirt really is not toxic, but you may want to watch for food poisoning type symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea from any bacteria or fungus that may be growing in the dirt. However it is rare for any symptoms to develop from this.
What if the dirt contained a nice juicy squiggly, wiggly worm? Well, that may provide your child with good protein, in which he may be lacking in his diet, but it’s also not expected to cause any harm.
“Is that a mushroom in your mouth son?”
There are different types of mushrooms and fungi growing in lawns and gardens this time of year. Some mushrooms that grow in the lawn can be extremely poisonous, so it is very important to call the poison center (1-800-222-1222) right away if your child does eat any. Use your mobile phone to snap some close up shots of the mushroom(s), so that you can send us the images. With a picture in hand we can properly identify the species and determine the best treatment options.
Some other fungi we get calls about are: Dog Vomit fungus – This little beauty resembles its name and it can be really unpleasant to imagine your child feasting upon such a dish, but is not expected to cause any toxic symptoms if eaten.
Another really gross fungus is the Stinkhorn. Its name comes from the “rhinoceros-like” horns that emerges from the ground. The horns are often slimy, oozy and can really emit quite a “stinky” odor. If you thought the previous blog “My child ate … poop” was gross, just wait until your child feasts on one of these slimy suckers. It’s unpleasant to imagine your child feasting upon such a dish, but is not expected to cause any toxic symptoms if eaten.
One mother called the IPC befuddled as to how her child refused to eat any of the wonderful foods she made for her but had no qualms about eating what she could only describe as a “putrid, phallic-looking, radioactive candy corn growing in the yard!” Luckily, the Stinkhorn is not toxic. Although rare, mild dermatitis or allergic type reactions are all that have been reported from encounters with these stinky guys, no severe symptoms are expected to arise
“Look mommy, it’s candy on the trees!”
On a more pleasant note, how about the lovely berries that grow on various plants in Illinois? While there are only a few berries that we worry about in Illinois such as nightshade, yew and pokeberries, it is always best to call with any berry ingestion as there are many plants and berries that have been imported from other regions and may pose a question of toxicity.
Some symptoms that can arise from eating one of the berries we listed above are: pokeberries may cause some mild stomach unset, nausea or vomiting depending on how many raw berries have been ingested. Nightshade may cause drowsiness, nausea and vomiting or agitation, irritability, large pupils and possibly tremors.
There are also plenty of indoor and outdoor plants to consider also. Plants like Dieffenbachia aka Mother in Law’s Tongue, and rhubarb leaves can cause severe oral irritation, and drooling. The experience is so unpleasant it usually doesn’t go beyond the initial bite, but if you think more was ingested or the child is complaining of pain or drooling, call us right away. A very pretty but rather toxic plant is the castor bean plant. Ingesting even a single seed, in a child, may lead to severe toxicity. Symptoms usually include nausea and vomiting. If any exposure to castor seeds occurs, call the IPC immediately.
“Yummy there’s a bug in my tummy!”
What if your child prefers a more crunchy texture to his snack, which can only be satisfied by biting into the exoskeleton of an insect? The good news is, in most cases, better they eat the insects than the insects eat them. Most of these will provide the child with a little protein; perhaps a little bitter taste or not so pleasant breath if they eat a stink bug but for the most part it will not be a toxic ingestion.
All in all the outdoors can still be a beautiful place if you keep the number to the poison center handy for any potential culinary adventures – 1-800-222-1222. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 a year!
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. Click here for IPC’s free online Poison Prevention Education Course (available in English and Spanish), free Continuing Education Credit/CEC and access to a variety of free educational materials you can share with your family, friends, community (stickers, posters, activity sheets/books, brochures, etc.).
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