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First Aid for Dieffenbachia Poisoning

Last updated Feb. 25, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Dieffenbachia Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of the plant or plant product containing the compound.


What is Dieffenbachia Poisoning?

  • Dieffenbachia constitute a wide variety of ornamental garden plants that are found in the tropical region of the world. The plant is toxic in nature; particularly, its leaves and roots
  • Dieffenbachia Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of the plant or plant product containing the compound
  • The condition is diagnosed based upon the clinical history, combination of signs and symptoms, and additional tests (that may include, in some cases, radiological studies and laboratory tests)

Dieffenbachia Poisoning may be also referred to variously as the following:

  • Dumb Cane Poisoning
  • Dieffenbachia Toxicity
  • Leopard Lily Poisoning
  • Tuft Root Poisoning

What are the Causes of Dieffenbachia Poisoning?

  • Dieffenbachia Poisoning is caused by eating parts of the dieffenbachia plant
  • This intake could be accidental, or in some cases intentional, to bring self-harm
  • Skin and eye exposure to the plant may also result in an allergic reaction, due to poisoning
  • The poisonous part of the plant is calcium oxalate crystals and the protein asparagine that is found in all plant parts (leaf, stalk, root, etc.)

Note: The compound can interact with other prescribed or non-prescribed medications in the body. Such interactions may enhance the therapeutic effects of other medications being taken, resulting in undesired side effects.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Dieffenbachia Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms can vary from one individual to another. It may be mild in some and severe in others. The signs and symptoms of Dieffenbachia Poisoning may include:

  • Burning sensation in the mouth and throat
  • Swelling of the mouth and tongue; unable to speak clearly (hoarseness)
  • Formation of mouth ulcers that may affect the functions of speaking and swallowing
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Contact with the eye may result in pain, redness, watery eyes, and potential damage to the cornea of the eye

How is First Aid administered for Dieffenbachia Poisoning?

First Aid tips for Dieffenbachia Poisoning:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency help number, for emergency assistance
  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or your local poison control center) for further instructions
  • Provide them with information such as the compound taken, quantity and time of ingestion, age, weight and general health status of affected individual
  • Confirm that the airways are protected; also, ensure breathing and the presence of pulse
  • Clean the mouth to remove any remaining pieces; wipe mouth with a wet cloth
  • If skin exposure or involvement of the eye has occurred, then wash thoroughly with copious amounts of water (for at least 15 minutes)
  • Take individual to emergency room (ER) for further treatment
  • Always try to take the plant or plant product to the ER

The emergency medical health professional might perform the following steps towards treating the condition:

  • Gastric lavage for elimination of the substance from the stomach (irrigation using special solutions); in rare cases of severe poisoning
  • Medically manage symptoms and provide breathing support, if necessary
  • Administer fluids by an intravenous drip line

Who should administer First Aid for Dieffenbachia Poisoning?

First aid for Dieffenbachia Poisoning is administered by healthcare professionals.

  • The individual who is affected, or someone near, should call 911 for emergency assistance (or the local emergency number)
  • They should also call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow instructions

What is the Prognosis of Dieffenbachia Poisoning?

  • The prognosis of Dieffenbachia Poisoning is dependent on the amount of substance consumed, time between consumption and treatment, severity of the symptoms, as well as general health status of the patient
  • If the individual can recover from the symptoms that occur due to poisoning, the outcome is generally good, with appropriate medication and early support
  • In case of severe symptoms due to severe contact/poisoning, it may worsen the outcome and/or prolong time of recovery. Nevertheless, no life-threatening complications are generally noted

In general, toxicities are common situations in the emergency departments. A majority of the cases are often not fatal, when appropriate treatment is given.

How can Dieffenbachia Poisoning be Prevented?

Dieffenbachia Poisoning can be prevented by:

  • Avoiding eating wild berries and plants, especially if you have no information about them
  • Following working in the garden or fields, hiking, or camping, always wash hands thoroughly, prior to eating anything
  • Always follow instructions for usage of any health or cosmetic products
  • Keeping cosmetics, medications, and other healthcare products out of reach of children in child-proof containers
  • Being aware of basic first aid steps in case of an emergency (such as inadvertent poisoning)

It is important to give your healthcare provider a complete list of prescription and non-prescription medications that are being currently taken. This will help them in assessing the possible drug interactions within various medications and help avoid/prevent accidental or unintentional toxic drug effects.

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Call 911 (or your local emergency number) for emergency assistance, if symptoms are life-threatening
  • Call Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 (or the local poison control center) and follow the recommend steps
  • It would be helpful if the following information is readily available:
    • Type, amount and time of intake of the substance
    • Age and weight of the individual
    • And, the overall health status of the individual

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?


References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: July 6, 2017
Last updated: Feb. 25, 2018