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Children and sometimes adults ingest or are exposed to plants. Kids eat plants because they look neat, with bright colored flowers or  because they smell good. Adults either misidentify the species of plant or are trying to get high. Sometimes ingestions cause only minor complaints such as nausea  and belly aches. And sometimes the plants can be deadly.

Foxglove and oleander are two types of plants which grow all over the place. The flowers are pretty so many yards are spiffed up with these plants. Yet these guys contain a powerful substance called Digoxin. When used properly, these chemical can slow certain fast heart rates and help the heart pump. Yet too much Digoxin can be deadly. For a small child, it doesn’t take a lot of leaves to reach a very toxic level.

Philodendrum are great ornamental plants and are grown both indoors and outside. The leaves contain small crystals, which when eaten cause irritation. This irritation in turn leads to pain, swelling and redness of the mouth and esophagus. At times, scar tissue especially in the esophagus might occur. A narrowing or stenosis of the esophagus occurs which requires dilation for treatment.

Some plants sensitize the skin to ultraviolet radiation. A trip to the beach or mountains and voila! Your forearms look like beets. These plants cause a photosensivity dermatitis or inflammation triggered by sunlight. Limes, figs, carrots and parsley are the usual culprits. You should know that not everyone who eats this stuff will experience the rash-just those who happen to have the once in a decade Hawaii trip and are lying on that pristine beach, blissfully unaware of the brewing skin eruptions which await them.

Jimson weed contains seeds which when ingested, brewed in a tea or put in brownies  creates a high. Hallucinations are common but also common are dry mouth and seizures. Not a great idea, but abused often especially by teenagers.

Poison oak or ivy grows over the very same trails that you bike or hike on. You might think yourself an intrepid explorer as you work your way up that little used trail. What you don’t notice are those branches with 3 leaves which may be slightly red colored. 24 hours later the toxin has finally worked: Everywhere your body has touched the plant, red, itchy and swollen welts pop up. These are caused by a delayed hypersensitivity and guess what? About 80 to 90% of us are allergic to these plants.

This list is by no means exhaustive and does not include mushrooms, the topic of a later column. Bottom line is don’t eat any plants that you aren’t 100% sure aren’t edible, watch out for those 3 leaves and don’t try to get high unless you’re willing to take the risks of death or serious disability. If your child happens to ingest a plant, don’t panic. Take a quick photo or better yet bring the plant with you. If over the next few hours your kid starts feeling poorly, bring him or her to the ER.

 

 

 

 

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