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Calla lily

This article describes poisoning caused by eating parts of a calla lily 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

  • Oxalic acid
  • Asparagine, a protein found in this plant

Note: The roots are the most dangerous part of the plant.

Where Found

  • Calla lily genus zantedeschia

Note: This list may not be all-inclusive.

Symptoms

  • Burning in mouth and throat
  • Swelling of mouth and tongue
  • Redness, swelling, pain, and burning of the eyes, and possible corneal damage
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Blistering and swelling in the mouth may be severe enough to prevent normal speaking and swallowing.

Home Care

Seek immediate medical help. Wipe out the mouth with a cold, wet cloth. If the person's eyes or skin are irritated, rinse them well with water.

Give the person milk, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider. Do NOT give milk if the person is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • The patient's age, weight, and condition
  • The name of the product (ingredients and strengths if known)
  • The time it was swallowed
  • The 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.

Bring the plant with you to the hospital, if possible.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The patient may receive fluids through a vein (IV) and breathing support.

Outlook (Prognosis)

If contact with the patient's mouth is not severe, symptoms usually resolve within a few days. For patients who do have severe contact with the plant, a longer recovery time may be necessary.

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

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.

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

Updated: 10/21/2013

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.


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