Myth: Poinsettias, the leafy, scarlet and white Christmas plants, are deadly if consumed by children or pets.
Facts: This is simply not true, says Brent Bauer, M.D., director of Complementary and Integrative Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Children might get a little stomach irritation, experience nausea and vomiting or have diarrhea if they eat a large amount of the plant, Bauer says, but the poinsettia is not poisonous no matter how much is eaten.
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He also said the sap from the plant could cause dermatitis, an itchy skin irritation, for some people who are sensitive to plant contact. But a large research study in 1996 found Euphorbia pulcherrima nontoxic, and since then most poison control centers do not list it as poisonous.
Poinsettias are not poisonous if consumed by pets either, says Steven Hansen, director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and a veterinary toxicologist. But they can irritate a cat or dog if eaten in large quantities. So if Fido or Fluffy does chow down on the showy red shrub and shows signs of lethargy, drools, vomits or has diarrhea, don’t feed them for 24 hours, and give them water until the effects subside. If their side effects don’t stop, go to the veterinarian.
Hansen does caution that all types of lilies—especially the Easter and tiger lilies popular during the holidays—are extremely poisonous to cats, but not dogs. The number of reported feline deaths is low, but consuming the lily can cause kidney failure if the cat is not taken to a hospital immediately.