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Poisonous Houseplants: Discover the Most Common Toxic Ones

Houseplants can enhance the atmosphere of your home in many ways. From purifying the air and keeping away insects to adding beauty and greenery to your space, their benefits are plentiful. However, poisonous houseplants may be dangerous for your child. Let's find out which are poisonous plants to humans — and what you can do to prevent it.

Why is your baby at risk?

Once your baby enters the explorer phase, it can add newfound challenges and stress for you to keep tabs on them around the house. They want to crawl or walk all the time, and their newfound mobility makes them want to touch, smell, and taste anything they see! This means having to be extra careful about what is within their reach around the house.

Having poisonous houseplants around can be dangerous at this point. Touching or ingesting the leaves, stem, or soil of some houseplants can cause a series of harmful effects, ranging from skin allergies and upset stomach to vomiting and diarrhea.

Common toxic houseplants 

Some of the most common houseplants may, in fact, be quite toxic for your child. Here is a list to help you understand which ones are poisonous houseplants and which ones safe to keep at home with a new little explorer.

Are orchids poisonous for babies?

Most varieties of orchids are not poisonous, and the phalaenopsis variety of orchids has been specifically mentioned as safe. Some varieties of orchids have even been used in Chinese medicine for their medicinal properties. With that said, the orchid is an extensive family of flowers and not all varieties have been researched for their effects on humans. Some varieties, like the lady slipper orchid, are categorized as toxic to humans by the University of California. Therefore, it's a good idea to keep all orchids out of reach of your child.

Peace lilies: how poisonous they are?

Peace lilies are a popular choice for a houseplant, as they are easy to care for and produce beautiful white flowers. But are peace lilies poisonous for humans? The answer is yes, if eaten in large quantities. Ingesting the flower can cause a burning sensation, followed by an allergic reaction. The effects can cause swelling of the tongue, mouth, and lips. If you plan to keep a peace lily, ensure it's left at a height where your child can't reach, like on a bookshelf.

Can geraniums be poisonous?

Geraniums are one of the most widely found houseplants, thanks to their brightly colored flowers. Their essential oils are valued for antifungal and antibacterial properties. While geraniums are usually considered safe to have as a houseplant, keep in mind that they may cause skin irritation or contact dermatitis when touched. This is because of the essential oils present in the plant.

Philodendron: is it poisonous or not?

Though the philodendron is often found indoors, it's quite a poisonous houseplant for humans. Eating any part of this plant can cause a severe allergic reaction, along with vomiting and diarrhea. The calcium oxalate found in philodendron is the poisonous agent. Since it's a trailing plant that climbs and spreads, it could be particularly dangerous around children if within their reach.

Other common poisonous houseplants

Besides the ones we've mentioned above, there are other plants that may also be toxic to your baby. The effects of ingesting any part of these plants could range from mild stomach upset to serious poisoning, so it is a good rule of thumb to avoid having them in your home. In case you do have any of the following, make sure to keep them well out of the reach of your child:

  • Poinsettia
  • Mistletoe
  • Caladium
  • Dumb cane
  • Amaryllis
  • Arrowhead vine
  • Clivia
  • English ivy
  • Azalea
  • Myrtle
  • Holly
  • Ivy
  • Umbrella tree
  • Foxglove
  • Jerusalem cherry
  • Flamingo flower
  • Oxalis
  • Elephant's ear
  • Devil's ivy
  • Oleander

Here are some helpful tips on how to manage your houseplants, while keeping it safe for your child to explore around the house:

  • Keep your houseplants out of your children's reach to avoid the risk of plant poisoning. Keep the plants on a higher ground, like the top of bookshelves, where children cannot climb.
  • Even at a young age, do not let your children get in the habit of putting flowers or leaves in their mouth — even if they are perfectly safe. This will prevent any confusion that could lead them to try the same with potentially toxic plants.
  • Discard the leaves and flowers of the plants in a safe manner so that they don't reach the hands of your child.
  • Storing seeds or bulbs away from children and food storage spaces.
  • Wear protective gloves when handling plants that might be toxic to the touch. Always wash your hands after handling such plants, especially before interacting with your child.

Toxic houseplant poisoning: first aid 

Despite the precautions, it is always wise to prepare for the worst. In case your child ingests any part of poisonous houseplants, here are some first aid tips to keep in mind.

Seek urgent medical attention if your child exhibits the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing or talking
  • Swollen or redness lips, tongue, and/or mouth
  • Drowsiness or turning pale
  • Severe itching or redness on skin

While you wait for medical help, follow these tips to manage the situation:

  • In case of contact poisoning (caused by touching a poisonous houseplant), remove the affected clothing using gloves. Then, run the affected area under running water for fifteen to twenty minutes. Make sure the water is not hot.
  • In case your child has eaten the plant, remove any remaining signs of the plant from their mouth. If they are vomiting, turn their face to the side to prevent them from choking.
  • In case the child has touched the toxic plant and rubbed their eyes, gently flush the eye with cool or lukewarm water for fifteen minutes.

Keep in mind that in some cases plants can cause anaphylactic shock — a  sudden, life-threatening allergic reaction. Signs and symptoms of anaphylactic shock include itching, sweating, diarrhea and vomiting, erythema, breathing problems, and swelling around the eyes and lips. If you see a severe allergic reaction, immediately call the doctor. 

While houseplants are a great way to spruce up the beauty of your home, some of them may not be good for your child's health. And if your child is crawling or walking around the house, having such plants within their reach could be dangerous.

Common houseplants such as peace lilies and philodendrons can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and an allergic reaction if eaten. While most varieties of orchids and geraniums are safe, some varieties may still cause skin irritation and are yet to be fully researched. It is a good idea to either avoid such plants, or keep them safely out of your child's reach. If your child has ingested a poisonous houseplant and exhibits symptoms like vomiting, redness around mouth, and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention right away.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2121637/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4312398/

https://www.aafa.org/anaphylaxis-severe-allergic-reaction/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-poisoning/basics/art-20056657

https://www.childrens.health.qld.gov.au/poisonous-plant-peace-lily-spathiphyllum/

https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/geranium/

https://www.bhg.com/gardening/houseplants/projects/poisonous-houseplants/

https://ucanr.edu/sites/poisonous_safe_plants/Preventing_Poisoning_Exposures_471/

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