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Caladium plant poisoning

This article describes poisoning caused by eating parts of the Caladium plant and other plants belonging to the Araceae family.

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

Alocasia plant poisoning; Angel wings plant poisoning; Colocasia plant poisoning; Heart of Jesus plant poisoning; Texas Wonder plant poisoning

Poisonous Ingredient

  • Calcium oxalate crystals
  • Asparagine, a protein found in the plant

Note: All parts of the plants are poisonous if large amounts are eaten.

Where Found

Caladium and related plants may be purchased as houseplants or used in landscapes. Types include Caladium esculentum and Caladium bicolor.

Symptoms

Eating parts of the plant causes a severe burning in mouth and throat. Other symptoms may include:

  • 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, and give milk to drink. Call poison control for more treatment information. If your eyes or skin touched the plant, rinse them well with water.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • The patient's age, weight, and condition
  • The name of the plant and the parts eaten
  • The amount swallowed
  • The time it was 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.

Outlook (Prognosis)

For those who do not have severe oral contact with the plant, symptoms usually resolve within a few days. For those 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.

Updated: 10/21/2013

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.


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