We have received a query about a WhatsApp message as image, received by a reader, which seems to be taken as a screenshot from a Facebook article. It stated that the plant shown in the image is of a poisonous, dangerous and deadly plant which can kill a child in 1 minute and adults in 15 minutes. Let’s check the facts!
The message reads: Please read this carefully. My son died because he put a piece of leaf in his mouth and his tongue swelled as a reaction causing him to suffocate. This plant is very common and is in many homes and offices. It is deadly and dangerous, and the poison in this plant can kill a child in 1 minute and an adult in 15 minutes. If you touch it by chance you should never bring your fingers to your eyes, as this could cause permanent blindness. Warn your friends and family.
The plant in the photo is called as Dieffenbachia, Dieffenbachia Amoena, dumbcane or dumb cane. As the name suggests, this plant causes some toxic effects on human tongue that can cause swelling in the mouth. Blistering and swelling in the mouth may be severe enough to prevent normal speaking and swallowing.
The Emedicine article notes that “Ocular exposure may result in eye pain, redness, and lid swelling“, but makes no mention of permanent blindness. Other medical articles describe dieffenbachia induced corneal injury but again make no mention of permanent blindness. There was a report of corneal injury, but not permanent blindness!
According to the medlineplus.gov, Symptoms may include: Burning in mouth or throat, damage to cornea of the eye, diarrhoea, eye pain, hoarse voice, nausea and vomiting, swelling and blistering in the mouth or tongue.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has also listed this plant as toxic for cats and dogs. There are more than 50 species of Dieffenbachia plant – you can check this from a Wikipedia page. Although, the Wikipedia page hasn’t mentioned, the veriety of Dieffenbachia plants are also used as a gardening plant in India.
Adults, kids or animals can die consuming this plant excessively, but it’s very rare. I can’t find any Dieffenbachia related death reports on the web so far. So, the message is true, but the warning was represented worse than it really is. The message was overblown and contains inaccurate information. The plant can cause a number of painful and distressing symptoms. You can read the report of hoax-slayer.net as well.