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Medium Risk

Also known as:

Dumb Cane Mother-in-Law’s Tongue

Dumb Cane, Dieffenbachia, a popular houseplant, over a rustic white farmhouse wood table
Possible Symptoms
  • Chewing on leaves and stems can cause intense pain and numbness
  • Swelling and redness of the lips, tongue, and mouth
  • Excessive drooling and difficulty swallowing
  • Skin irritation and rashes
  • Eye pain and irritation
What to Do
  1. Rinse mouth thoroughly to wash away crystals.
  2. Cold fluids such as milk, ice cream or popsicles to help soothe tissues.
  3. Rinse any exposed skin with lukewarm water.
  4. Call 1-800-222-1222 for additional instructions
If Exposed to Eyes

If someone gets the sap or juice from Dieffenbachia rubbed into the eye there can be immediate burning and stinging, even small amounts can be a problem which requires prompt first aid to avoid an eye injury.

  1. Start rinsing eye(s) with lukewarm water.
  2. Call the Missouri Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 for further recommendations.

Additional Information

Quick Facts about Dieffenbachia

Dieffenbachia is a tropical plant that is a perennial (able to survive throughout the year). It is usually an indoor plant in Missouri because it requires a warm and somewhat humid environment, such as the kitchen or a bathroom, and it is easy to care for even for non-experienced plant enthusiasts. There are multiple species of Dieffenbachia with combinations of colors, variegations, and leaf sizes. Other common names Dieffenbachia is known by are dumb cane and mother-in-law’s tongue.

Is Dieffenbachia toxic or poisonous?

Chewing on the leaves or stems of Dieffenbachia can cause immediate onset of pain, redness, and swelling of the lips, tongue, and mouth.

Note: The plant needs to be chewed on for the sap or the juice to be released. Mouthing or sucking on the plant, which babies (especially those without teeth) tend to do, usually results in no symptoms. 

The plant’s juice contains small, sharp needle-like crystals that are so small you can only see them under a microscope. These crystals can pierce the inside of the mouth and tongue, and the enzymes in the juice can add to the irritation from the crystals. This results in pain, redness, and swelling. If there is enough swelling in the mouth and throat area, it can result in difficulty speaking, swallowing, and breathing. Typically, once the pain and irritation start to occur, people will stop chewing on the plant. This limits the bad symptoms of Dieffenbachia, so serious poisonings are uncommon. Remember, the same symptoms can happen when pets chew on the plants, so make sure to keep the plant out of reach for both children and pets.

If someone has eaten a small amount of Dieffenbachia, do not panic. Wipe out the mouth with a soft, wet cloth or rinse well with water. After washing, give the person cold fluids such as milk, yogurt, or ice cream. Call the Missouri Poison Center right away at 1-800-222-1222 so the person can be monitored for symptoms. The poison center is open all day, every day for poisoning emergencies and questions.

**Note: Don’t forget, every case is different. To make sure you are getting the best information for your individual situation, click below to call or chat. It is fast, free, and confidential.

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