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Mistletoe poisoning

Definition

Mistletoe is an evergreen plant with white berries. Mistletoe poisoning occurs when someone eats any part of this plant. Poisoning can also occur if you drink tea created from the plant or its berries.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Poisonous Ingredient

  • Phoratoxin

Where Found

The poisonous ingredient is found in all parts of the plant, but especially in the leaves.

Symptoms

Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and throat:

Gastrointestinal:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting

Heart and blood:

  • Weakness

Nervous system:

  • Drowsiness

Home Care

Seek immediate medical help. Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name and part of the plant that was swallowed, if known
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number 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.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

The health care provider will measure and monitor your vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. You may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Breathing support
  • EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
  • Fluids through a vein (IV)
  • Medication to treat symptoms

Outlook (Prognosis)

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.

Symptoms last for 1 - 3 days and may require a hospital stay. Death is unlikely.

Prevention

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.

References

Graeme, KA. Toxic Plant Ingestions. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2011:chap 64.

Hostetler MA, Schneider SM. Poisonous plants. In: Tintinalli JE, Kelen GD, Stapczynski JS, Ma OJ, Cline DM, eds. Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 6th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2004:chap 205.


Review Date: 10/21/2013
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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