The Christamas star is a classic during Advent. Still, many parents and pet owners wonder whether or not the plant is poisonous. Here you can find out whether it is really dangerous for children or pets such as cats and dogs.
Are poinsettias really as toxic to humans and their beloved pets, such as cats and dogs, as many claim, or is this just scaremongering? Opinions are divided on this subject. If you look for the answer to this question on the Internet, you will find many contradictory articles and opinions. On the one hand, one reads that poinsettias are highly toxic for children and animals and that the plants therefore have no place in an animal or children’s household. The next article says the opposite. So after an online search, you’re usually no smarter than you were before. But what is correct? Is the poinsettia poisonous or not?
Is the poinsettia poisonous?
It is a fact that the Christmas flower (Euphorbia pulcherrima) belongs to the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae) and, like all species of the spurge genus, contains a whitish milky sap (latex) that seeps out when the plants are injured. This milky sap is used by the spurge plants as a wound closure and protection against feeding, and contains skin-irritating substances, especially diterpenes from the terpene group. The wild form of the poinsettia is particularly known for a high concentration of these substances. The commercially available poinsettia hybrids, on the other hand, are described as hardly toxic because they contain only small traces of diterpenes.
Skin irritation due to the milky sap of the poinsettia.
Even one contact with the poisonous milky sap of the poinsettia can cause irritation of the skin and mucous membranes. In sensitive individuals, the milky sap can cause redness, swelling, itching and allergic reactions. Therefore, wear gloves as a precaution when caring for plants, whether repotting or cutting poinsettia, and be sure to avoid contact with eyes. You should immediately rinse affected areas with clean water.
Poinsettia: Possible poisoning in children
Although poinsettia is described as having low overall toxicity, children may experience poisoning-like symptoms in the form of abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea when consuming parts of the plant. In rare cases, drowsiness and dizziness occur. Do you suspect that poisoning has occurred? Then you must act immediately: rinse your mouth with water and give plenty of water to drink. Do not induce vomiting, but seek medical advice and help, for example from the Poison Control Center.
Is the poinsettia poisonous to cats and dogs?
Severe cases can also occur in cats, dogs and other small pets such as rabbits, birds or hamsters that come into contact with the poinsettia’s toxin. They are much smaller than humans and, accordingly, are more sensitive to toxic substances. For pets, all plant parts of the poinsettia are also toxic. If it comes to consumption, a visit to the vet is inevitable.
As with other poisonous houseplants, the same applies to the poinsettia if a small child or animal lives in the household: it is better to do without the plant in order to avoid such incidents, whether skin irritation or even poisoning.