Once baby arrives, decorating the house for the holidays takes on a whole new meaning. One thing to watch out for: holiday plants that can be dangerous if ingested. But contrary to popular belief, the poinsettia is not one of those plants, posing no danger to your children or pets.
Although there was never any scientific proof, many people believe these festive holiday plants are too dangerous to keep around the house, especially if there are children and pets around. No one knows exactly how this urban legend got started, but many sources trace it back to 1919, when a series of newspapers reported on a case of supposed poinsettia poisoning of a 2-year-old child. According to the rumor, the child died after ingesting poinsettia leaves. The story was never verified, but it managed to stick in the popular imagination.
In reality, poinsettias are members of the euphorbia family and they are non-toxic. Like many euphorbia species, however, they do extrude a sticky white sap that can aggravate skin. Washing the affected area with soap and water, as well as applying a cool compress, can help ease any itching. And while eating the leaves or stems of a poinsettia plant may cause a mild stomachache, vomiting or diarrhea, severe signs and symptoms are unlikely. If your child does eat the leaves or stem, simply rinse their mouth with water.
People with a latex allergy might be more sensitive to the plant since latex and poinsettia plants share several proteins. In case of a severe reaction, seek medical attention right away.
Have the phone number for the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222 programmed into all phones of the household. They are a great resource if you are unsure if something your child has ingested is toxic.
Reviewed by Dr. Eva Benmeleh, September 2020
- Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous.
- While the sap can cause some minor skin irritation, washing the affected area with soap and water and applying a cool compress can help ease any itching.
- Eating the leaves or stems of a poinsettia plant may cause a mild stomach ache, vomiting or diarrhea, but severe signs and symptoms are unlikely.
- People with a latex allergy might be more sensitive to the plant since latex and poinsettia plants share several proteins.