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Rhubarb leaves poisoning

Rhubarb leaves poisoning occurs when someone eats pieces of leaves from the rhubarb plant.

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

  • Anthraquinone glycosides (possible)
  • Oxalic acid

Where Found

The leaves (leaf blade) of the rhubarb plant; the stalk can be eaten.

Symptoms

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Burning in the mouth
  • Burning in the throat
  • Coma
  • Diarrhea
  • Eye pain
  • Kidney stones
  • Nausea
  • Red-colored urine
  • Seizures
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

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. Flush the skin and eyes with lots of water, if the plant touched these areas.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

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

Poison Control

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

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

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
  • Breathing support
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
  • Fluids by IV (through the vein)
  • Laxatives
  • Medication to treat symptoms 
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)

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.

Serious poisonings can result in kidney failure. Deaths have been reported, but are rare.

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.

Alternative Names

Rheum officinale poisoning

References

Dart RC. Introduction to plants. In: Dart RC, Caravati EM, McGuigan MA, et al., eds. Medical Toxicology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2004:chap 254.

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

Smolinske SC, Daubert GP, Spoerke DG. Poisonous plants. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 24.

Update Date: 10/21/2013

Updated 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.

MedlinePlus Topics

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