Colorful holly draped throughout the house, a tall tree covered in bright Christmas ornaments – these are things that add to the spirit of the holiday season. However, many potentially dangerous decorations can attract the curiosity of children and pets.

“There are a lot of common holiday decorations that can be extremely poisonous,” said Bryant Herring, Wellmont Health System’s director of pharmacy services. “Children have a tendency to put things in their mouths, so people need to be very aware of what decorations they put within a child’s reach.”

Common decorations of which parents should be aware include:

• Mistletoe – Certain varieties of this plant contain substances which can be harmful to one’s nervous system and heart. Mistletoe’s berries have the greatest potential for causing problems, although the entire plant is dangerous.

• Holly – The berries of certain varieties of this plant are poisonous and can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and drowsiness if ingested.

• Fireplace colors – These decorations are made of metallic salts which can cause intense mouth, throat or stomach irritation, as well as other problems.

• Christmas tree garland, tinsel and icicles – While not poisonous, these decorations can cause blockage in the stomach or intestines if swallowed.

• Poinsettia – Contrary to some reports, poinsettia plants rarely produce adverse reactions when ingested by children. Irritation of the eyes can occur, however, when children touch the plant’s leaves and then rub their eyes.

Any time one suspects a child has ingested a potentially poisonous substance, parents are urged to contact a physician or bring the child to an emergency room, Herring said.


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