Poinsettia plant could cause ‘skin irritation’ and allergic reaction

Royal Horticultural Society reveals how to care for poinsettia

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Poinsettias can be found in many supermarkets, shops and garden centres at this time of year. The plant is particularly popular at this time of year thanks to its beautiful green leaves and red bracts.

The plant can be toxic if ingested and if certain individuals come into contact with the plant’s milky sap.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) website reads: “Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is considered to be considerably less toxic than other Euphorbia species.

“However, it is best to avoid ingestion and contact with milky sap that may cause skin and eye irritation.”

The sap, which is inside the plant’s stem, can cause an allergic reaction, especially in those who have a latex (rubber) allergy.

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The reason for this is that latex and poinsettia plants share several of the same proteins.

People who are allergic to the plant’s sap may experience redness, swelling and an itchy sensation as well as eye irritation.

Therefore, those with a latex or rubber allergy may need to stay away from the sap of poinsettias.

The sap isn’t usually released from the plant unless the leaves or steam are broken.

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People with latex allergies may be allergic to gloves, condoms, balloons and rubbers which all contain natural latex.

For some people, an allergic reaction occurs when touching latex while for others they react after inhaling it.

According to the Mayo Clinic, those who are allergic to avocados, bananas, chestnuts, kiwis and passion fruits are also more likely to be allergic to poinsettia plants.

One individual who had a poinsettia allergy was mother-of-six Michelle Blacklock from Ontario, Canada.

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She told Allergic Living in December 2019 that she had a serious anaphylactic reaction to a poinsettia plant.

The mum knew she had an allergy to latex but didn’t know poinsettias were a member of the same plant family as the natural rubber tree.

Michelle said her reaction began with itching before progressing further into symptoms consistent with anaphylaxis.

She described the experience as “really scary”, claiming she would have been “a goner” if she had been 10 minutes further away from the hospital.

Poinsettia does also occur in dogs if ingested, however, the dog would have to eat all the plant to be in any danger.

The plant’s toxicity level is thought to be mild or moderate which means a fatal reaction is highly unlikely.

Some of the symptoms include excessive drooling, licking lips repeatedly, red itchy eyes, watering eyes, and irritation around the nose, skin, face and lips.

If a dog experiences these symptoms, it’s a good idea to contact your local vet.

Symptoms of a poinsettia or latex allergy in humans:

  • skin redness or hives
  • itchy skin
  • itchy eyes
  • nasal drainage
  • sneezing
  • throat irritation
  • asthma

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