True or False: Poinsettias are poisonous to kids and pets.
This is one of those holiday myths that just refuses to die. It supposedly began back in 1919 when a 2-year-old boy was found dead after eating a poinsettia leaf – it was just assumed that the plant had killed him. However, since that time, many studies have shown that kids (and pets) that are exposed to poinsettia plants do just fine.
The sap of the plant is mildly irritating but according to POISINDEX (the resource used by Poison Control Centers) a 50-pound kiddo would have to eat about 500 leaves to have any toxic effects. And while I myself have never dined on a poinsettia salad, the leaves are reportedly not very tasty, so it’s highly unlikely that kids or even hyperactive pets would be willing to eat that many! The most common side effects that have been reported from poinsettia ingestions are upset stomach and vomiting, and some people with serious latex allergies have had a skin reaction after touching the leaves.
If you or any of your relatives happen to nibble on a poinsettia (or any other plant for that matter) and you are concerned, you can always call your Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 to speak with an expert. But in the mean time, go ahead and get decorating for the holidays – with your crazy Uncle Louie coming over to celebrate with his famous High Octane Egg Nog, the plants are the least of your worries!
Angela Walker (OSU COM)
John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)