Poisoning involving plants

Last updated: 05/03/2023

Symptoms of poisoning involving plants

The following are some symptoms indicative of poisoning caused by plants:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea - vomiting – producing excess saliva
  • Blisters
  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • Irritation around the mouth
  • Feeling faint - paralysis
  • Eczema
  • Aphonia (loss of voice)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rash
  • Abdominal pains – gastroenteritis
  • Conjunctivitis - rash - eczema
  • Possible fever

What to do in case of poisoning

If one or several of the symptoms above appear following contact with or ingestion of a plant:

  • Telephone the fire and emergency service by dialling 18 or 112
  • Contact the centre for poisons whether or not you recognise the plant
  • Describe the plant: stem, shape and colour of leaves, colour of berries

If you have touched the plant

If you have been in physical contact with a toxic plant:

  • Rinse the affected area thoroughly with water
  • Avoid exposure to sunlight
  • Seek medical advice before applying ointment or cream

If you have ingested the plant

If you have ingested a toxic plant:

  • Do not wait for symptoms to appear to take action
  • Keep the rest of the plant so that doctors are able to identify the cause of poisoning
  • Drink lots of water
  • Do not make yourself vomit without advice from a doctor or centre for poisons

Some advice

In 60% of cases of poisoning by plants, the victims are young children, mainly between the ages of 0–4 years. Children are curious about everything, and discover the world through their mouths as well as their eyes and hands. They are not able to distinguish between toxic berries and edible berries, and react to toxins much more quickly than adults since they weigh so much less.

Avoid growing certain plants so that children cannot poison themselves by chewing on the leaves, flowers or berries. All or part of a plant may be toxic and simply drinking water from a vase can poison children.

Supervise children and infants closely, and place toxic plants out of their reach. Do not forget to remove plants on windowsills or low tables. You can teach children to recognise toxic plants and their dangers so that they are able to avoid them.

Common sense measures to prevent poisoning incidents involving plants

  • Seek out information before selecting plants and decorating your house, terrace or flowerbeds with them
  • Do not eat plants which you do not recognise
  • Never assume that all parts of a plant are edible simply because the berries or roots are, or because animals eat it
  • Remember that vegetable toxins are not automatically destroyed by cooking
  • Do not place flowers that you do not recognise in your room
  • Beware when sitting on the ground as some plants can cause serious skin reactions
  • Use gloves when gardening, and avoid touching your eyes or those of others
  • Avoid local, plant based remedies and harmful self-medication


<span>Database of the Lille Centre for Poisons</span>

Stéphanie Barbey –IDE- Robert Debré

Administrative contact