The natural beauty of plants and flowers is a favorite ingredient of holiday decorating, but it can also be hazardous to your health. Some plants that look festive can cause skin irritation from simple handling, and others have berries and leaves that can be fascinating but dangerous to children and pets.
If you’re planning to decorate with holiday plants or already have a few in your home, be aware of the dangers some pose so you can plan and display accordingly. Maintenance is also important: dropped berries and leaves need to be picked up at least once daily. Here’s more on the potential hazards of five popular holiday plants.
Curious kids aren’t usually attracted to holly’s spiny leaves, but the berries are another story. Consuming one or two berries can cause a tummy ache, eating a few more leads to diarrhea and vomiting, and eating 20 holly berries causes death.
Amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus
If ingested, the bulbs of these graceful winter blooms will lead to stomach aches, heart arrhythmia and even convulsions. Their leaves also contain toxins, although in smaller amounts. Amaryllis and paperwhites are more often consumed by pets than people.
Every part of the mistletoe plant contains toxin dangerous to people and pets. It can cause nausea, diarrhea, blurred vision, blood pressure problems and even death in humans, and if a small pet eats just a few mistletoe berries, it can be in serious danger. Small children are also attracted to the berries, whether on the plant itself or after they’ve fallen to the floor. Call poison control if mistletoe is ingested, and avoid problems by swathing mistletoe in tulle or a bag that will catch and hold any berries before they hit the floor.
The dangers of the poinsettia plant are generally overblown, but it’s not entirely harmless. If ingested, it can irritate the mouth and stomach, sometimes resulting in diarrhea or vomiting. If the milky sap comes in contact with skin, irritation, including redness, swelling, and itchiness, may develop. Rarely, eye exposure can result in a mild “pink eye” reaction.
You may recognize this invasive, nonnative plant, especially if you live in California, Hawaii, Texas, Alabama or Florida. Brazilian pepper’s shiny evergreen leaves and bright red berries may seem to be the perfect match for holiday decorating, but many people wind up with rashes just from touching or being near this plant. It can also cause mild to severe breathing reactions.
The cherry-tomato-like fruit of this plant is extremely toxic to cats, dogs and some birds. Humans who eat Jerusalem cherries can have reactions ranging from gastric distress and vomiting to slowed pulse, seizures and hallucinations. All parts of the Jerusalem cherry are toxic—even more so when unripe—so call poison control if any bit of it is ingested.
In the event of an emergency call to your local poison control center, you’ll need to know the name of the plant consumed as well as the exact parts and amount consumed. Also be prepared to provide the approximate time of consumption and the person’s age, weight and condition. These are critical to giving proper care in the event of a holiday plant emergency.
Source: Bayer Advanced
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