To embellish an apartment or home, it’s always a good idea to think twice about the nature of indoor plants you want to bring in. Are they toxic? This precaution is intended particularly for children, especially young ones. Better safe than sorry.
Don’t be fooled by the beauty of these popular indoor plants. They may be too dangerous for your own taste.
Be aware of these plants
Among the most common indoor plants around, you should be especially careful of species belonging to the Dieffenbachia genus, also known as the “dumb cane.” Philodendron also belong in the same family as the Dieffenbachia genus: the Araceae, including Peace Lilies and Monstera.
Chewing one of its leaves will lead to major issues with the mucous membranes, including increased salivation, raspy voice, troubles swallowing, and often respiratory difficulties. The presence of irritants (proteolytic enzymes, calcium oxalate crystals) explains these symptoms.
Accidents caused by Dieffenbachia plants are a problem especially for young children, aged from six months to a year. If you have such a plant, it’s always a good idea to put it out of reach.
Euphorbia plants, or spurges, form a large genus of indoor and outdoor plants. Among the most widely used are Poinsettia flowers. Its colorful bracts (red, pink or white) are very attractive. The plant’s juice however will provoke the gastric flu (gastroenteritis).
The latex contained in other Euphorbia plants is on the other hand much worse than the one in Poinsettia flowers. For example, the thorns from the Euphorbia milii species can cause painful wounds.
Manipulating Euphorbia plants (for cutting or cultivating) will require handling with gloves. It is vital to wash any skin in contact with the plant’s latex. The irritant effect can take place only a few hours later, and bubbles can form even 12 hours later.
Ficus trees are also among the most widely used apartment plants. Ingestion of a leaf will cause diarrhea (the latex having laxative properties). No severe intoxication however has been detected.
Fruits from the Madeira Winter Cherry tree are poisonous. If ingested, they can cause major digestion issues, especially when still green.
Mistletoe and holly are traditional decor during Christmas-time. Mistletoe is commonly known to be very toxic. In practicality, the ingestion of a couple of its berries will “only” provoke gastrointestinal irritation. Holly berries can also be responsible for diarrhea, always a pain when it comes to young children.
The bulbs of tulips, hyacinths and daffodils are often mistaken for onions, and could be used to enhance salads or soups. Nausea and vomiting happen fairly quickly, which probably helps limiting the severity of intoxication. Be careful not to put these decorative bulbs with onions and shallots.
- Do not wait until the first symptoms to call for help. Poison emergency numbers are available for each US state. For a poison emergency in the U.S. call 1-800-222-1222. You can check the AAPCC website for more information.
- The first moments are always critical. Remove any plant leftovers from the mouth and hands. Put them aside for analysis (if you don’t know the plant). If possible, rinse out the mouth but do not swallow water or milk. A quick medical intervention will allow a stomach pump or induced vomiting.
- If it’s only an issue of skin or eye contact, wash the area long enough with tap water. Do not apply any skin/dermatological product. Try to avoid sun exposure (risk of photodermatitis).