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Jack-in-the-pulpit poisoning

A Jack-in-the-pulpit is a plant belonging to the species Arisaema triphyllum. This article describes poisoning caused by eating parts of this plant. The roots are the most dangerous part of the 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

Arisaema triphyllum poisoning; Bog onion poisoning; Brown dragon poisoning; Indian turnip poisoning; Wake robin poisoning; Wild turnip poisoning

Poisonous Ingredient

  • Calcium oxalate

Where Found

Jack-in-the-pulpit plants are found in North America in wetlands and moist, wooded areas.

Symptoms

  • Burning in mouth and throat
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Swelling of mouth and tongue -- can cause difficulty breathing if severe
  • Teary eyes

Home Treatment

Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.

Wipe out the mouth with a cold, wet cloth. Immediately give the person milk to drink, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider. Do NOT give milk if the patient is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.

Wash the skin with water. If the plant material touched the eyes, rinse the eyes with water.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the plant
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

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.

Wearing gloves, place the plant in a container and take it 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.

Expectations (prognosis)

Plants containing calcium oxalate may cause swelling severe enough to block the airways, but this is rare.

References

Graeme K. Toxic plant ingestions. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 58.

Updated: 12/15/2011

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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