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Houseplants That Are Poisonous to Children

by
author image Cynthia Myers
Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.
Houseplants That Are Poisonous to Children
Ficus trees contain a skin irritant. Photo Credit ficus image by c-chez-marc from Fotolia.com

Houseplants add color and life to your home. According to the Colorado State University Extension, plants also help keep the air inside your house cleaner, removing pollutants from the air. But some houseplants can be poisonous if eaten. Keep children and pets away from all houseplants. If your child eats a houseplant, contact poison control and your doctor.

Dumb Cane

Dumb cane, or Dieffenbachia seguine, contains toxic compounds known as oxalates. Oxalates irritate skin and soft tissue. Dumb cane gets its name from this property — if your child eats dumb cane, his mouth and tongue can swell. According to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, this irritating quality also prevents most children from eating enough to be fatal. Rinsing the mouth can help remove the irritating oxalate salts. Other houseplants that contain oxalates include arrowhead plant, split-leaf philodendron and pothos ivy.

Bittersweet

Bittersweet, or Solanum dulcamara, contains solanine, which causes upset stomach, cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. According to the University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension, severe solanine poisoning can lead to loss of consciousness and damage to the digestive tract. Jerusalem cherry is another common houseplant that contains solanine.

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Croton

Crotons, or Codiaeum variegatum, with their variegated leaves and ability to thrive in relatively low light, grace many homes. But some varieties contain croton oil. If your child ingests croton oil, he will likely vomit and may end up with a painful case of gastroenteritis.

Christmas Rose

Christmas rose, or Helleborus niger L., produces lovely flowers, but also has toxic compounds called glycosides. Glycosides irritate the mouth like oxalates and upset the stomach like solanine, but can also over-stimulate the heart, according to the University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension. You'll find glycosides in other houseplants, including oleander and lily-of-the-valley.

Narcissus

Narcissus bulbs bring a bit of spring indoors in the winter. The bulbs are easy to force and give off a strong perfume. But narcissus contains the toxic alkaloid lycorine, which irritates the stomach, causing nausea and vomiting.

Ficus

Rubbing up against ficus benjamin, also known as weeping fig, can irritate the skin and cause a rash that, while not fatal, can be uncomfortable. Other houseplants that can potentially cause dermatitis include asparagus fern, chrysanthemum and primrose.

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