Surprisingly, even a common plant like a philodendron can be poisonous. According to medical specialists, the leaves, stems, flowers, roots, and other parts of more than seven hundred different kinds of plants that grow in the United States contain toxic substances that can prove deadly if ingested.The plants pose a particular danger to our grandchildren, who have a tendency to put objects in their mouth. In fact, after medicines, plants are the leading cause of poisoning among children under five years old. Pets may also be susceptible.Poisonous plants do not have to grow wild or be exotic; many are familiar favorites found in homes and gardens or bought to add festive flair to our homes for the holidays. Among them: philodendron, English Ivey, dieffenbachia, sweet pea, morning glory, azalea, hyacinth, daffodil, iris, hydrangea, rhododendron and mistletoe.When eaten poisonous plants can produce ill effects -- from swelling of the tongue and lips, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea -- to cramps, convulsion and even heartbeat irregularities. The poisons are sometimes so potent that even a tiny taste is deadly. For example, a single leaf of the oleander plant contains enough of a chemical active on heart tissue to kill an adult. Using a branch of the plant as a barbecue stick can deposit enough of the substance on meat to kill a child. Forget spearing marshmallows and melting them over the grill. Doctors offer us several suggestions to safeguard our grandchildren, pets and ourselves:
Know the names of the pants you have in our home and label the containers they grow in.
Keep all household plants out of the reach of children and animals.
Warn your grandchildren against eating plants or playing with them for example, using hollow stems to make peashooters, or whistles.
Post the number of the poison control center by the telephone and call immediately if you suspect someone has accidently eaten a harmful plant. The medically trained staff will tell you what to do.
Robin Westen is ThirdAges Health expert. She writes about health for national magazines. Check for her daily updates.
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