Toxic Exposure

Pearls of Wisdom: How to Handle Poinsettia Ingestion

  • Answer: Reassure the mother

    Over the years, I have certainly heard my fair share of warnings about the toxicity of poinsettia plants, so I can certainly understand this mother’s concern.

    The Research

    A 1997 meta-analysis of the electronic database of the American Association of Poison Control Centers between 1985-1992 identified 23,000 reports of poinsettia exposure, of which 93% were children. [On a side note, what kind of holiday celebrations lead to 1600 cases of adults munching on poinsettias?] 

    The Results

    Analysis of these poinsettia ingestions revealed no fatalities. In fact, no adverse effects at all were found in over 92% of case reports. Researchers concluded that even gastrointestinal decontamination is not warranted after poinsettia ingestion in asymptomatic individuals.

    What’s the “Take Home”?

    Maybe you shouldn’t run with scissors or go swimming within 30 minutes of a meal, but despite our parents and grandparents admonitions to the contrary, toxicity from ingestion of poinsettia is a very rare thing and parents should be reassured that in the absence of symptoms, no treatment other than observation is warranted.


    1. Krenzelok EP, Jacobsen TD, Aronis JM. Poinsettia exposures have good outcomes…just as we thought. Am J Emerg Med. 1996;14(7):671-674.