Being sure that the plants in your house are not poisonous house plants and dangerous to your children.
"Mommy, Mommy! My arms are itchy!" Your toddler is standing below you, tugging at your pant leg with persistence. You look at her arms and discover she has some sort of rash. To avoid scenarios like this, parents should learn more about common houseplants that are poisonous.
This list outlines some common dangers, but not every plant that can be a problem. Your local Extension Service, garden center or poison control center can provide specific information about hazardous plants and treatments.
An amaryllis is a bulbous herbal houseplant. The flowers are funnel-shaped and vary in color. The poisonous part of the amaryllis is the bulb. If ingested, it can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and salivation. Children may be attracted to the amaryllis for its stunning color and shape.
The azalea is a flowering shrub with round clumps of blooms. They can be white, pink or yellow in color. They bear two types of leaves. All parts of the azalea are poisonous. When ingested, these houseplants can cause salivation, loss of energy, depression, nausea, paralysis in the arms and legs, coma, breathing difficulties and weakness. These flowers are bright in color and have a unique shape.
The caladium has heart-shaped leaves and can be green, red, orange or white, depending on the species. Some other names for caladium houseplants include mother-in-law plant, Heart of Jesus, caladio, cananga and angel wings. All parts of the caladium are poisonous when ingested. The caladium causes major irritation to the lips, mouth and throat.
The calla lily is a houseplant with long stems or stalks and leaves shaped like arrows. They bloom in white or green. The leaves are the poisonous portion of calla lily houseplants. Irritations to the skin can occur on contact. Ingestion causes an extreme burning feeling to the lips and mouth. While toxic, the calla lily is often considered a very beautiful flowering houseplant. Children may naturally be attracted to its beauty.
The cyclamen can be both rounded and heart-shaped. This houseplant has flowers that come in red, pink or white. The roots are the poisonous part of cyclamen houseplants. Ingestion can cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, paralysis and convulsions. Skin irritation from contact may also occur. Children may be attracted to the delicate size, vibrant colors or unique shape.
Also commonly called dieffenbachia, the dumb cane is a tall, leafy plant. The leaves are large and can have ivory-colored patches. The poisonous part of the dumb cane is the leaf. If chewed on, the leaf will cause intense pain and swelling of the mouth. Children may be drawn to this poisonous houseplant because of the design on the leaves or the fact that the leaves are big and easy to grab.
Eucalyptus plants belong to the evergreen family. The leaves are rounded and can be a dark green or red tone. The leaves and bark of the eucalyptus tree are poisonous. Contact skin irritation can occur. Ingestion can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and coma. The oil from a eucalyptus tree is toxic.
The Jerusalem cherry or coral can be in the form of shrubs or herbs. These houseplants are often spiny or hairy. Black, orange or red berries grow from this plant. The entire plant is poisonous if ingested; however, the berries are the most potent. When ingested, the Jerusalem cherry causes throat irritation, fever, diarrhea and gastric irritation. Children may be attracted to this poisonous houseplant because of its colorful berries, which resemble edible berries.
This is generally a climbing vine. Most have large, heart-shaped leaves. Contact with the philodendron can cause skin irritation. Ingestion of philodendron plants can cause burning to the lips, mouth and throat. Some children may be attracted to the clutching or climbing aspect of vine houseplants.
Also known as rosary pearls, these are tropical houseplants bearing red berries. Ingestion of broken seeds causes a delayed reaction of vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, major abdominal pain, burning in the throat and lesions in the mouth and esophagus. The rosary pea can cause death. Because the peas look edible and are bright red, resembling cranberries, they may attract children.
Living with Poisonous Plants
The first rule for plants and young children is stay away. Keep plants out of reach and explain to children that they are not a toy. Children should also be taught from a young age never to eat berries or other fruits that they encounter, since some poisonous varieties look almost exactly like the foods we eat. Picking poisonous berries off houseplants may be necessary.
If your child shows symptoms of poisoning, it's important to try and identify the source. Damage to houseplants may be obvious. If the child is responsive, ask him or her to point out the plant that was eaten, then call the poison control hotline for treatment instructions.
In addition to poisoning, the pollen of some plants may trigger allergic reactions. It's best to introduce new houseplants one at a time, waiting two weeks and checking for any signs of allergies before introducing another.
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