The long awaited spring is finally here, bringing warmer temperatures, longer days and lots of greenery.
Children will be spending more time outdoors now finding interesting things to explore, including plants.
Adults and older children are able to enjoy the beauty of plants while understanding that although plants may be pretty, at the same time, some can be poisonous if eaten.
On the other hand, young children tend to think that poison is something which looks, tastes and smells bad.
Plants, which are "pretty poisons," may not be seen as a danger by young children.
The fragrance and attractive colors of flowers and berries can be deceptive for young children and may be mistaken for something that is good to eat.
In reality, plants, including both house and garden varieties, are among the top 10 agents that cause poisoning in young children under the age of 6.
"In the Midwest, there are hundreds of poisonous plants that are capable of causing illness or injury in dozens of ways," according to Dr. James Mowry, Director of the Indiana Poison Center. "The potential symptoms of toxicity depend on the specific plant involved. Most exposures occur in the spring and summer months and they make up nearly 10 percent of all the poison exposures in young children reported by poison centers each year."
So, what can be done to keep children safe around plants?
* Identify every plant in both the home and yard. If you are not sure what a certain plant is, take a sample to a nursery or greenhouse for identification. An adequate sample consists of a large piece of the plant, including leaves, stems, berries, flowers of whatever is growing on that plant at the time. Identification of a single leaf or berry is virtually impossible. House, garden and wild plants, "weeds," trees and shrubs should all be identified. If a child does eat part of a plant and parents need to call the poison center, the poison specialist will be able to help more quickly if they know the name of the plant. The Indiana Poison Center does not identify plants via pictures sent from phones. Don't delay calling the poison center to attempt to identify the plant. If parents don't know, the poison specialist can still help care for a child immediately and assist in obtaining the identification from a source close at hand,
* If a child spends time with a babysitter or family member, remind them that they too, should know what kinds of plants they have in their yards and homes,
* Label all plants with their proper name (preferably the common name and the botanical name). Write the name on tape with permanent ink and place it on the bottom or outside of the planter. Make a rough sketch of the yard and garden, including location and name of trees, bushes and plants. Keep the "map" posted in a convenient place in the home, so that anyone caring for a child will be able to use it to identify plants if necessary,
* Consider buying silk or other imitation flowers if young children live in or visit the home. (Keep in mind that these can be a choking hazard). Supervise young children at all times when they play outside,
* Keep children away from plants with berries. The color, shape and texture of berries are very attractive to young children. Berries are found on garden and wild plants, but they may also be part of dried flower arrangements,
* Remove all mushrooms in the yard, especially after rainy spells in spring and fall. Most reported deaths from mushrooms result from adults who have intentionally eaten wild mushrooms. A death from a child eating mushrooms growing in a yard in Indiana has not been reported. But, identification of mushrooms is very time consuming, even for experts, so it is best to assume all varieties are toxic. It is important to call the poison center if any portion of a wild mushroom is eaten, and
* Contact the poison center if a poisoning is suspected. Plant material may be digested slowly and symptoms of poisoning can be delayed. Don't wait for problems to develop. If a suspected poisoning has taken place, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222.
For more information regarding the poison center, call 1-800-222-1222 or visit www.clarian.org/poisoncontrol.