Poisonous or harmful plants and children factsheet


Some common plants are dangerous for children. When touched or swallowed, they can be poisonous, cause allergic reactions, or cause physical injuries.

Poisonous or harmful plants can:

  • grow in gardens or places where children play
  • be used as decorations in the home
  • produce fruit, berries and seeds that look edible to children
  • grow petals or leaves in bright colours and patterns that look attractive to children.

Some plants are poisonous or sharp to:

  • keep them safe from predators
  • help them spread seeds and reproduce
  • help them grow in different environments.

Babies and young children under four years are at a higher risk of poisoning or injury from plants. This is because they are learning to explore their environment and will put things in their mouth to learn about taste and texture.

Poisonous or harmful plants to avoid

 Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of poisoning from plants can include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • abdominal pain and cramps
  • irregular or fast heartbeat
  • burning or stinging in the mouth, lips or tongue
  • fits or seizures
  • difficulty breathing.

If you think your child has swallowed, touched or reacted to a dangerous plant, you must act immediately. Do not wait for symptoms to show up.

Call the NSW Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for immediate support. They will give you information about any first aid you need to do and tell you which emergency department to go to.

If possible, take a photo or write down details of the plant your child has had contact with.

Call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance if your child has severe symptoms like:

  • difficulty breathing
  • losing consciousness or passing out
  • chest pain.

Give as much information as possible about the plant to the phone operator and follow their instructions until the ambulance arrives.

Symptoms of contact with a harmful plant can include:

  • cuts to the skin
  • bleeding
  • swelling
  • redness.

If a plant has seriously injured your child, go to your nearest emergency department.


A doctor can diagnose poisoning or injury based on: 

  • your child’s symptoms
  • the type of plant
  • the amount of plants ingested
  • any relevant tests or scans. 


Call the NSW Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for immediate support. They will give you information about any first aid you need to do and tell you which emergency department to go to.

First aid

First aid for poisonous plants can include:

  • washing affected skin with running water
  • flushing out affected eyes with clean, running water for 10-15 minutes
  • removing any remaining pieces of plant from your child’s mouth before washing with running water.

First aid for plant injuries can include:

  • gently removing any spikes or plant tissue from the skin where possible
  • cleaning the skin gently with clean water
  • applying an antiseptic cream, if there is one available
  • covering the injury with gauze and a clean bandage, if available.

Call the NSW Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or see your local doctor for more information.

Treatment in hospital

How poisoning is treated in hospital will depend on:

  • the type of poison
  • the amount of poison
  • whether it was swallowed, breathed in or touched
  • the symptoms your child is showing.

Your child’s treatment team will work to:

  • keep airways open and breathing stable
  • keep blood pressure and heart rate stable
  • keep your child conscious
  • treat any symptoms
  • remove or lower the impact of the poison.


Identifying dangerous plants

There is no way to see whether a plant is poisonous or not by looking at it unless you know what type of plant it is. Generally, signs a plant may be poisonous include:

  • a bitter taste
  • a funny smell
  • milky sap
  • red seeds or berries. 

Harmful plants can have physical signs like spikes or needles, sharp edges, or a fuzzy texture.

If you are unsure whether a plant is poisonous or harmful, you should leave it alone and keep it away from children.

Plant safety

You can prevent children from being poisoned or injured by plants by:

  • teaching them not to eat anything straight from a plant, bush or the ground
  • putting a fence or barrier around any poisonous or harmful plants in your garden
  • putting any decorative plants up high, out of reach of children
  • teaching children about poisonous and harmful plants and how to recognise them.
Last updated Wednesday 15th May 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024