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Health Questions

Dieffenbachia poisoning

Definition

Dieffenbachia is a type of house plant with large, colorful leaves. Poisoning can occur if you eat the leaves, stalk, or root of this plant.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Alternative Names

Dumbcane poisoning; Leopard lily poisoning; Tuft root poisoning

Poisonous Ingredient

Symptoms

  • Burning in mouth or throat
  • Damage to cornea of the eye
  • Diarrhea
  • Eye pain
  • Hoarse voice
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Swelling in mouth or tongue

Home Care

Wipe out the mouth with a cold, wet cloth. Rinse your eyes and skin well if they touched the plant. Give milk to drink. Call Poison Control for more guidance.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • The patient's age, weight, and condition
  • The parts of the plant that were eaten
  • The time swallowed
  • The amount swallowed

Poison Control

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Take the plant with you to the hospital, if possible.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The patient may receive breathing support and fluids through a vein (IV).

Outlook (Prognosis)

In rare cases, these plants may cause swelling severe enough to block the airways.

References

Hostetler MA, Schneider SM. Poisonous plants. In: Tintinalli JE, Kelen GD, Stapczynski JS, Ma OJ, Cline DM, eds. Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 6th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2004:chap 205.


Review Date: 12/15/2011
Reviewed By: Eric Perez, MD, St. Luke's / Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY, NY, and Pegasus Emergency Group (Meadowlands and Hunterdon Medical Centers), NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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