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Mistletoe poisoning

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 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 your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Poisonous Ingredient

The poisonous ingredient is:

  • Phoratoxin

Where Found

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

Symptoms

Symptoms of mistletoe poisoning can affect many parts of the body.

EYES, EARS, NOSE, MOUTH, AND THROAT

STOMACH AND INTESTINES

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain

HEART AND BLOOD

  • Weakness

NERVOUS SYSTEM

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 provider

Before Calling Emergency

Get the following information:

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

Poison Control

Your local poison 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 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, and 7 days a week.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The person may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Breathing support
  • EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
  • Fluids through a vein (IV)
  • Medicines 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 to 3 days and may require a hospital stay. Death is unlikely.

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: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 64.

Update Date 11/4/2015

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