Philodendron is a flowering houseplant. Philodendron poisoning occurs when someone eats pieces of this plant.
This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call 911 or the local emergency number, or the local poison control center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.
The poisonous ingredient is:
- Calcium oxalate
Symptoms of this type of poisoning include:
- Blisters in the mouth
- Burning in mouth and throat
- Hoarse voice
- Increased saliva production
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain on swallowing
- Redness, swelling, pain, and burning of the eyes, and possible corneal damage
- Swelling of the mouth and tongue
Blistering and swelling in the mouth may be severe enough to prevent normal speaking and swallowing.
Seek immediate medical help. DO NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care provider.
If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water or milk, unless instructed otherwise by a provider. DO NOT give water or milk if the person is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.
Wipe out the mouth with a cold, wet cloth. Wash off any plant sap from the skin and eyes.
Before Calling Emergency
Get the following information:
- Person's age, weight, and condition
- Name and part of the plant swallowed, if known
- Time it was swallowed
- Amount swallowed
Your local poison control center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does not need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
What to Expect at the Emergency Room
The provider will measure and monitor person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. For severe reactions, the person may receive:
- Activated charcoal
- Breathing support
- Fluids by IV (through the vein)
- Medicines to treat symptoms
How well you do depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance for recovery.
In rare cases, swelling is severe enough to block the airways.
DO NOT touch or eat any plant with which you are not familiar. Wash your hands after working in the garden or walking in the woods.
Auerbach PS, Constance BB, Freer L. Toxic plants. In: Auerbach PS, Constance BB, Freer L, eds. Field Guide to Wilderness Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 40.
Graeme KA. Toxic plant ingestions. In: Auerbach PS, Cushing TA, Harris NS, eds. Auerbach's Wilderness Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 65.
Lim CS, Aks SE. Plants, mushrooms, and herbal medications. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 158.
Last reviewed on: 11/13/2021
Reviewed by: Jesse Borke, MD, CPE, FAAEM, FACEP, Attending Physician at Kaiser Permanente, Orange County, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.