Keeping Kids Safe from Toxic Plants

Summer is a great time to get outdoors — but summer outdoor fun can bring up new safety challenges for kids. One you might not have thought of is toxic plants.

Toxic plants in Northwest Arkansas

Northwest Arkansas is home to a number of toxic plants. One of the most appealing is the pokeberry, shown in the picture at the top of the page. Those purple berries look delicious, but they can actually be highly poisonous. 

Jimson weed, also called loco weed, thorn apple, or devil’s trumpet, is another beautiful but dangerous plant. It contains  hyoscyamine, atropine, and scopolamine, and can be fatal. 

Poison sumac, poison ivy, and poison oak are the familiar toxic plants that brought us the saying, “Leaves of three, let them be.” Teach it to your kids. These plants are not as dangerous as some others, but many people have very uncomfortable reactions to any contact with them. 

Be prepared

There are other native poisonous plants, such as buttercups, snakeroot, and hemlock, but there are also many toxic plants introduced in gardens, from oleander to foxglove. 

The best plan is to teach children not to eat plants they find without checking with an adult first. 

Small children may put random leaves in a teapot from their tea set when they play tea party, pick things that look like berries or mushrooms, or chew on stalks from plants. Older kids might try foraging for wild plants. Emphasize that they should always ask a grownup before putting any plants in their mouths. 

Poison control

If your child eats a toxic plant, contact the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately. If you’re not sure what the child ate or whether it is toxic, you can call your pediatrician for advice. 

Try to find out what the child ate. Ask them to show you what it was, and carefully take a sample. Remember that some plants are poisonous to touch, so make an effort not to touch a plant that has you worried. 

Appropriate treatment will vary depending on the plant, your child’s age, and other details of the event, so do not try to treat the child before you talk with a healthcare professional.