Some Christmas trimmings could be toxic

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

JONEBORO, AR (KAIT) -At Christmas time we like to make our homes look festive with decorations and traditional holiday plants.

But, those plants, decorations and other holiday items can cause serious health problems for children and pets.

At Harmony Gardens in Jonesboro, they have all kinds of Christmas plants.

Owner Todd Smith told me what the hot choices were this time of year. "Hollies that berry have a lot of Winter interest, and are typically used inside. And, also the Christmas Cactus."

Of course, there is also the pine wreaths, trees and the most common Christmas plant--the highly toxic Poinsettia.

Todd was quick to point out that the toxicity of a Poinsettia is a myth.

"It's a misconception. Certainly it's been passed down. A lot of people believe that the poinsettia is highly toxic."

Just to make sure, I went over to NEA Baptist Hospital and asked E.R. Doctor J.T. Dewitt if this was true. He said eating the leaves could give you skin rash, but probably would not kill you.

"The ingestion of a plant leaf certainly is not deadly, but it can cause some GI disturbance."

And, what makes us sick is usually true for our pets. At the Jonesboro Family Pet Hospital, Dr. Sara Rowland said that many plants can make your pets become ill.

"Poinsettias, mistletoe--if you have any of that hanging above the doorway--all those things can cause some GI, gastrointestinal, upset in your animals."

I'm sensing a pattern here. But, is there one plant that's worse than others?  Yes. The berries on the mistletoe plant.

Although mistletoe is great for getting those Christmas kisses, it's the most toxic and possibly the most deadly plant you can have around your house at Christmas time.

Dr. Dewitt says, "In children a couple of berries can cause some serious abdominal cramps and some nausea and vomiting."

Dr. Rowland says, "The berries and the seeds on the mistletoe can be life threatening and cause several problems with your animals."

The berries can quickly put an animal into shock with death following if not treated.

Don't pass up the chance for a Christmas kiss, just take the berries off the mistletoe before hanging it up.

Of course to small children and pets, the Christmas tree is an object of fascination and perhaps taste. The first thing to do is to make sure children and pets can't get to the cords of the lights, and then readjust where the ornaments are hung.

Dr. Dewitt says, "Used to, you saw a lot of glass decorations. Make sure they are hung high enough so the children can't get to them."

Dr. Rowland says, "Animals will bite ornaments and chew those. Animals will get into tinsel off the trees, so you just have to be very cautious. Kind of puppy proof your home."

Another point that's really important to keep your children safe, is that when the parties over, pour out the half-full drink glasses.

As little as 3 ounces of hard liquor could be potentially fatal to a small child.

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