Hazards and Poisons

The holiday season brings toys, parties, decorations, and the potential for poisoning. The Drug and Poison Information Center, a service of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, targeted a few safety hazards. Please find the list below. For more information, call 1-800-222-1222.

Ethyl alcohol, a common and potentially toxic ingredient in holiday beverages, also surfaces in gifts such as perfumes and colognes. Many cases involve children, who either found an open bottle or unfinished drink lying around.

While published reports vary, a review of evidence shows a lack of serious incidents resulting from ingestion of domestic varieties of poinsettia. Symptoms typically include gastrointestinal and local irritation. Scientific evidence rebukes claims that poinsettia cause "fatal convulsions".

Certain varieties of mistletoe contain substances that, in large quantities, can affect the nervous system, blood pressure, and heart. Berries serve as the greatest potential for poisoning, although other parts of the plant also contain toxins. In the amounts (one or two) usually ingested by small children, no documented cause for alarm or necessity for treatment exists.

Consumption of the berries of a few of the 400 varieties of holly plants may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and reduced breathing and heart rate. Although the exact nature of the toxic chemicals remains unknown, reports of death include children who have eaten as few as 12 berries.

Although the Jerusalem Cherry allegedly contains solanine, a substance found in several plants with known toxic potential, DPIC received few reports of related symptoms such as dilated pupils, salivation, nausea, vomiting, headache, bloating, diarrhea, respiratory depression, central nervous system depression, confusion, irregular heartbeat, coma, and death.

Very little information exists on the poisonous nature of the plant. Call DPIC if ingestion occurs.

Some ingredients, such as salicylates in oil of wintergreen, menthol, camphor, eucalyptol, and other oils and flavorings, can pose as poison. Watch for a high alcohol content in other products.

Avoid skin contact with solid pieces of dry ice, composed of carbon dioxide. Tissue damage and burns to the mouth may result from ingestion. Flush the skin with, or drink lukewarm water if direct exposure occurs.

Ornaments made of thin metal, plastic, or wood glass can block the airway if ingested.

Children or adults swallowing a disc battery, commonly found in toys, cameras, watches, and calculators, should undergo a doctor's evaluation. A referral to an emergency department for x-ray may follow. Problems usually only occur if the object becomes lodged or ruptures.

Angel hair, candles, Christmas cactus, evergreen trees, garland, tinsel, icicles, and snow spray or flock show no signs of causing poison.