Child-proofing plants as important as rest of house

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 7, 2000

A couple of weeks ago, I visited my good friend Sadie and her precious son Miles. Guess what? Miles crawled for the first time. Actually, he crawled forward for the first time. He had already mastered crawling backwards.

Now that Miles is on the move, Sadie really has her hands full. One of the most important things to do is to baby-proof her house. This includes plants. Some plants are poisonous, and care must be taken when choosing plants for a baby-proof home.

In the South, we are surrounded by beautiful plants in and around our homes. Beautiful landscapes grace our parks, schools and churches. Even if your own home is plantless, there’s no doubt that your children will be exposed to plants elsewhere.

Email newsletter signup

The accidental ingestion of plant material is most common with children 6 years of age and younger. Symptoms include irritation of skin, mouth and eye, difficulty breathing, allergic reactions, stomach ache, vomiting, and even death.

Several steps can be taken to avoid the accidental poisoning from nonfood plants. The most obvious is to teach children that putting leaves, stems, flowers, berries, seeds or wild mushrooms in their mouth is dangerous. Of course, I realize that this is easier said than done.

Learn to recognize plants that are potentially poisonous so that they can be avoided. Poison ivy is a common plant in the Miss-Lou and is easily recognizable. Other outdoor plants that are poisonous include the azalea, buckeye, caladium, China berry, holly, hydrangea, jessamine and privet.

Quite often plants are grown inside homes, offices and public places such as shopping malls. The dumbcane (Dieffenbachia sp.), pothos, peace lily (Spathiphyllum) and philodendron are a few to avoid. Careful supervision of children in places with poisonous &uot;houseplants&uot; is obviously the best defense against accidental ingestion. Of course, again, this is easier said than done.

Surround your children with plants that are non-toxic. Begonia, coleus, impatiens, marigold, petunia and roses are all safe plants. Christmas cactus, jade plant, swedish ivy, wandering jew, and spider plant are others to consider in a baby proof environment.

If you think a child has swallowed any part of a poisonous plant, it is very important that you stay calm and keep the child calm. Additional stress may cause the poisons to accelerate through the body, causing more probleim.

Immediately examine the child and remove any remaining pieces from the child’s mouth Try to determine just how much of the plant has been ingested. Become aware of any unusual symptoms or adverse reactions. Identify the plant either by its common or scientific name so that you can relate this to a professional at the poison control center (1-800-256-9822).

If you are directed to take the child to the hospital, it is important to bring along a piece of the plant ingested so that the attending medical professional can examine it.

Complete list of toxic and non-toxic plants can be found in many books and on the Internet. If you have a toddler and arc very interested in the subject, several good books are available at the local book stores that go into much more detail about protecting your children. Hang on Sadie, the terrible twos are just around the comer!

Gardening Miss-Lou Style is a weekly column written by Traci Maier of Natchez. She can be reached at Fred’s Greenhouse at 445-5181 or by email at