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Potentially toxic plant ingestions in children: Clinical manifestations and evaluation

Brian A Bates, MD
Section Editors
Jan E Drutz, MD
Michele M Burns, MD, MPH
Deputy Editor
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH


Children are frequently exposed to potentially toxic plants both in the home and outdoors. Since children are curious and readily explore their environment, it is no surprise that they often ingest plant parts including leaves, seeds, berries and flowers. While these exposures rarely result in clinically significant poisoning, it is important for healthcare providers to be aware of the limited number of plants that have the potential to cause significant poisoning and their clinical effects.

This topic will discuss the clinical manifestations and evaluation of toxic plant ingestion in children. The treatment of plant or mushroom poisoning and the clinical manifestations and evaluation of mushroom poisoning are discussed separately. (See "Toxic plant ingestions and nicotine poisoning in children: Management" and "Management of mushroom poisoning" and "Clinical manifestations and evaluation of mushroom poisoning" and "Amatoxin-containing mushroom poisoning (eg, Amanita phalloides): Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment".)


Potentially toxic plant ingestions occur frequently in children but serious toxicity is rare as indicated by the following longitudinal studies:

Of approximately 500,000 toxic plant ingestions in children ≤5 years of age reported to United States poison control centers over 10 years, more than 90 percent of children had minimal or no effects and only one child died as a result of an exploratory ingestion [1].

Of almost 60,000 potentially toxic plant ingestions in children under 15 years of age reported to German poison information centers, 90 percent had no effects at the time of the call, 9 percent had minimal effects and less than 1 percent had moderate or major effects [2].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 31, 2016.
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