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Poisonous houseplants and flowers

Houseplants provide visual interest to the home, purify the air, and may be edible or medicinal. However, some commonly grown and useful plants may be toxic. Milliam Murigi takes us through some commonly grown plants in Kenyan homes, which are a health hazard to humans or animals

1. Pothos

Also known as devil’s ivy, this plant is grown because of its beautiful variegated leaves and air purification abilities. However, pothos is believed to be slightly harmful if consumed in small quantities.

It can produce serious and uncomfortable side effects in humans and animals. In humans, it may cause burning of the mouth, swelling of the lips, throat and tongue, skin irritation, diarrhoea, together with vomiting.

In animals such as dogs and cats, it may cause swelling of the tongue and mouth, drooling, difficulty in breathing, and choking along with stomach upset. And then it may lead to renal failure or death. Its sap causes temporary blindness when it gets into contact with the eyes.

2. Oleander (Nerium oleander)

Commonly used as an ornamental shrub as well as hedges, this plant is the most dangerous as it contains toxins in all its parts. These cause severe gastrointestinal upsets and can also lead to death when ingested. Skin irritation occurs when its sap comes into contact with the skin.

3. Oleander Daffodil (Narcissus)

Also known as ‘Narcissus’, the daffodil’s bulb is highly poisonous. Its application on broken skin or ingestion leads to paralysing effects to the body’s involuntary muscles including the heart.

4. Dieffenbachia

This plant is called dumb cane. It consists of oxalate crystals and if consumed, it produces slight or modest symptoms in humans and animals. These symptoms include burning sensation, extreme pain in the mouth, swelling or numbing of the throat as well as salivation.

5. Hydrangea (Hydrangea mycrophylla)

Hydrangeas come in many colours bright and attractive to animals. It is, therefore, expected that the plant would have its defences up. The buds and leaves of this plant bare toxins that when ingested lead to vomiting, diarrhoea, and difficulty in breathing. Severe reactions to the plants’ toxins are lethargy and coma.

6. Mother-in-law’s tongue aka snake plant

This plant has leathery, sword-like leaves that earned the plant its sharp name. The toxicity level is low, producing short-lasting symptoms such as mouth pain, salivation, and some nausea. In rare instances, it can produce a dermatological reaction, but is mainly toxic only if ingested.

7. Aloe vera

Aloe vera is also a popular house plant, which is effective in purifying the air inside the house, healing wounds as well as burns and a good remedy for skin care.

However, while the inner aloe vera gel is the wonderful stuff, the outer skin of this plant is slightly toxic. It is extremely irritable to your skin along with your intestinal system. Even though this plant would not kill the animals, it makes them become queasy a little bit.

8. Lily

Although lilies are so beautiful, some of them are toxic. However, they are more toxic to animals than to the humans. The toxic lilies include calla lily, rubrum lily, Asian lily, day lily, tiger lily as well as Easter lily. However, different types of lilies can cause the different symptoms in humans or pets.

In pets, particularly cats, they may suffer from lethargy, vomiting, together with lack of appetite. Seriously, they may suffer from renal and liver failure. If the pets are not treated, they might die. In humans, ingestion of this plant may cause skin irritation, stomach upset, blurred vision, vomiting as well as headache.

9. Sago palm

This is one of the oldest plants on Earth. It has survived for a long time because animals do not eat it. All parts of Sago palm such as the roots, the seeds and leaves are poisonous. If you and your pets eat this plant, you may suffer from diarrhoea and vomiting. Sometimes, it may lead to liver failure.

10. Philodendron (Money plant)

While it is often the perfect complement to any room, it contains calcium oxalate crystals, which are toxic to humans and animals. In humans, especially small children, eating it may cause slight side effects such as a dermatitis reaction as well as the swelling of the digestive tract and mouth.

In some rare situations or after eating large amounts, fatalities in children may occur. Besides that, philodendron has also more effects on the pets such as dogs and cats. They include pain, seizures, swelling and spasms.

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