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Foxglove poisoning

Foxglove poisoning usually occurs from sucking the flowers or eating the seeds, stems, or leaves of the foxglove plant.

Poisoning may also occur from taking more than the recommended amounts of medicines made from foxglove.

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

Willow-leaved foxglove poisoning; Revebjelle poisoning

Poisonous Ingredient

  • Deslanoside
  • Digitoxin
  • Digitalis glycoside

Where Found

  • Flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds of the foxglove plant
  • Heart medicine (digitalis glycoside)

Symptoms

Possible symptoms include:

Hallucinations, loss of appetite, and halos are usually only seen in people who have been poisoned over a long period of time.

Home Care

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

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the plant or medication, if known  
  • Time it was swallowed
  • 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.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The health care provider will measure and monitor your vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. You may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Breathing support
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG  (electrocardiogram or heart tracing)
  • Fluids through a vein (IV)
  • Laxatives
  • Medications to treat symptoms, possibly including an antidote to help reverse the effects of the poison
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage )

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well you do depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

Symptoms last for 1 - 3 days and may require a hospital stay. Death is unlikely.

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

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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