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The rhododendron is a popular plant not only in the local, mostly front gardens. The beautiful azalea species is also popular in public parks and cemeteries. Unfortunately, all parts of the graceful evergreen plant with the colorful flowers contain toxins that can be dangerous, especially for animals and small children, but also for adults. The following article shows which poison the rhododendron contains and which symptoms of poisoning can be developed by the plant.

Toxic substances

Unfortunately, the graceful rhododendron, which is cultivated publicly or privately in many areas of a community, is poisonous to humans and animals in all parts of the plant. The poison is mainly found in the flowers, nectar, fruits and also in the leaves. Even eating a leaf or flower can cause symptoms. Even simply touching the flowers and later putting your finger in your mouth in children can cause symptoms. Unfortunately, the critical absorbed dose of the poison is not known and can therefore vary quite a bit. Cases have already been documented in which people complained of feeling unwell after consuming honey from rhododendron flowers.

The plant contains the following toxins:

  • diterpenes
  • Grayanotoxins
  • acetylandromedol

Small children and curious pets in particular are at risk of coming into contact with the poison and possibly allowing it to enter the systemic circulation. The little ones like to play with flowers and leaves, which they like to serve to their parents or friends in the sandpit as "cooked food". Pets, on the other hand, like to nibble on the leaves and should therefore be kept away from the plant. For example, Greek tortoises can die from the poison contained within 24 hours after eating a flower or a leaf.

symptoms human

symptoms in humans

The symptoms of rhododendron poisoning are particularly severe in children who have put flowers or leaves in their mouths and perhaps even swallowed them, due to their lower body weight. Because the smaller the children are, the less the body can counteract the poisoning. If they have swallowed a dose that would hardly cause any symptoms in adults, this can have fatal consequences in children. This can also happen by simply touching a flower with your fingers, which then ends up unwashed in the child's face and mouth. These are the symptoms of rhododendron poisoning.

  • increased salivation
  • nausea to the point of vomiting
  • abdominal pain and diarrhea
  • Sensory disturbances such as skin tingling
  • mucosal irritations
  • dizziness

In the worst cases, it can even lead to seizures, shortness of breath and suffocation, all the way to life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. It is therefore advisable to consult a doctor quickly if only one symptom occurs, especially in children, since it is still not known at what dose of the ingested poison this could become life-threatening.

symptoms animals

Rhododendron poison can be far more dangerous to animals than it is to humans. And it's not just small pets like cats, dogs or rodents that are affected. Horses in particular cannot tolerate the poison from the shrub at all. If they only nibble on the leaves for a short time, they can die within a few hours. Greek tortoises are also extremely endangered here, because they see the lush, green leaves as food and usually do not survive the enjoyment.

Other endangered animals are the following:

  • goats and sheep
  • cows and pigs
  • birds
  • Pets of all kinds

As a rule, the symptoms of poisoning are more pronounced in animals than in humans, where paralysis and cramps as well as inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract often occur. Ultimately, without first aid, death from respiratory paralysis will inevitably occur in most cases. If you have a rhododendron in close proximity to your own pets or next to a paddock or stable, you should visit or summon a veterinarian at the first sign of the symptoms mentioned. The quicker action is taken, the sooner an animal can survive, which unfortunately is not the case in every case.


Procedure after poisoning

As soon as one or more symptoms appear in a child or adult, immediate action should be taken. Because depending on the amount and, above all, who is affected, the poisoning can also lead to death. Small children and small pets are particularly at risk. Therefore, action should be taken as soon as it is first detected.

  • depending on the severity of the symptoms
  • Call an ambulance or see your family doctor
  • give plenty of fluids as first aid
  • alternatively give activated charcoal
  • this binds the toxins in the stomach
  • call the poison control center if necessary

If it is known that the symptoms were caused by poisoning of rhododendron plant parts, the poison control center can immediately provide information about antidotes or the right behavior. This initial information on the spot is also important for the family doctor or the emergency doctor who arrives, so that they can act correctly. Above all, you should never be afraid to call the emergency doctor if you have concerns, because calling too many times is always better than calling too late.

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