Christmas Plant Safety

Keep pets and kids safe this holiday season

Plants are an easy and fragrant way to decorate for the holidays. Almost all of the most common Christmas plants are available in artificial varieties which make them even easier to decorate with. If you prefer the live version though, there are several things you should keep in mind for plant safety.

Poisonous plants

These Christmas plants are poisonous if ingested by animals and can be dangerous for people as well:

  1. Mistletoe
  2. Poinsettia

These plants should be kept well out of reach of children and pets to avoid poisoning. Poisonous plants will cause nausea, vomiting, cramps and diarrhea. They may also irritate the mouth, tongue and throat or cause a skin rash.

What to Do

If your pet or child is poisoned by a Christmas plant, you have to react quickly. Remove any trace of the plant from the mouth. If the victim is choking or can't breathe you should call 911 immediately. If breathing is not impaired, you can call the Poison Control Center. If you take the victim to the emergency room, take some of the plant (or ideally the entire plant) with you so that emergency workers know what they are dealing with.

Poisoning from plants is typically a slow process so you have time to deal with it when you spot it. There is danger if you don't see it right away because repeated exposure to poisoning from the plants can cause extensive damage. You need to monitor your children and pets when they are around the plants.

The Christmas Tree

While live Christmas trees are a long tradition for Christmas celebrations they are not always the best choice. The problem with real trees is the sap and needles that may end up invading your home.

Besides the sticky mess that tree sap leaves on hardwood floors and carpets, it can also pose a safety risk. Trees purchased from a tree farm might have been grown with the use of pesticides or other chemicals. These chemicals leave the plant in the sap, which can make it poisonous to kids and pets.

Since animals are naturally curious about the tree, they may end up getting sap stuck in their fur. It can be incredibly difficult and painful to clean sap out of your pets' fur. You can rub vegetable oil over the sap and try to gently brush the sap out, but it will be a painstaking process.

Alternatives to Traditional Christmas Plants

While Mistletoe and Poinsettias are probably the most common plants that are used as Christmas decorations, there are a number of plants that make an attractive and safe alternative.

For example, Christmas cactus is a non poisonous holiday plant. It blooms in mid-December and has smooth, rounded margins. The Christmas cactus requires a warm growing environment but will continue to bloom year after year. The colorful blooms make beautiful holiday decorations and the plants are easy to care for. While you will always want to keep children and pets away from plants to avoid injury, some holiday flowers pose less of a risk than others.

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