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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 and blistering in the mouth or tongue

Blistering and swelling in the mouth may be severe enough to prevent normal speaking and swallowing.

Home Care

Wipe out the mouth with a cold, wet cloth. Rinse the person's 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)

If contact with the patient's mouth is not severe, symptoms usually resolve within a few days. For patients who do have severe contact with the plant, a longer recovery time may be necessary.

Prevention

Do not touch or eat any plant with which you are not familiar. Wash your hands after working in the garden or walking in the woods.

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.

Shofner JD, Kimball AB. Plant-induced dermatitis. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2011:chap 63.

Graeme, KA. Toxic plant ingestions. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2011:chap 64.

Review Date:10/21/2013
Reviewed By:Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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