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Poisonous Holiday Plants

December is a time when holidays are in full swing, with a wide range of decorations creating a festive mood in homes, schools, and child-care settings. However, when plants are involved, the risk of poisonings can increase for many reasons. There may be more plants than usual, and at the same time adults may be more distracted with activities and visitors, giving a child more opportunity to chew on an attractive plant. By knowing the hazards involved, we can help prevent plant poisonings.

The Massachusetts Poison Control System has provided a list of plants that can cause problems. Keep in mind that many plants are poisonous if parts of them are chewed or swallowed; most cause only vomiting and diarrhea, but some can be far more toxic, causing convulsions and even coma. Toxic plants include the following:

  • Mistletoe: All parts are toxic, but the small white berries are particularly dangerous.

  • Jerusalem Cherry: The fruit is very toxic.

  • Yew: All parts are toxic.

  • Boxwood: Leaves and twigs are especially toxic.

  • Holly: Berries and all parts of the plant are toxic.

  • Poinsettias: The American Poinsettia, which is the more common variety found in the U.S., is mildly toxic, causing intestinal problems; however, there are European varieties that may be more toxic, so it's a good idea to keep all poinsettias out of children's reach.

Parents should try to avoid bringing potentially poisonous plants into a home with small children, and they should also be aware of the names of the plants that they do have. But if there is any doubt and a poisoning is suspected, call the U.S. national poison center at 1-800-222-1222.

This article is provided by Child Health Alert.

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