The Full Story
To a child, berries look good enough to eat. Red, purple, white, and small – they are irresistible. Some berries are poisonous. A few are edible. Even non-poisonous berries can cause stomach upset; there are hard to digest and can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Learn the names of plants and berries in your own yard. If you don't know, consult a park ranger, plant nursery, cooperative extension agent, master gardener, or a library book for help.
- Watch children carefully when they are playing outdoors.
- Teach children always to ask a grown-up before eating or drinking anything.
- Bring only non-toxic berries indoors for decorations. (Keep them out of reach; remember that even non-poisonous berries could be a choking hazard for small children.)
Should someone eat a poisonous berry or an unknown berry, use the webPOISONCONTROL® online tool or call Poison Control right away at 1-800-222-1222. Poison Control can help you determine if treatment is necessary.
Rose Ann Gould Soloway, RN, BSN, MSEd, DABAT emerita
Cummins RO, Haulman J, Quan L, Graves JR, Peterson D, Horan S. Near-fatal yew berry intoxication treated with external cardiac pacing and digoxin-specific FAB antibody fragments. Ann Emerg Med. 1990;19:38-43.
Rodrigues TD, Johnson PN, Jeffrey LP. Holly berry ingestion: case report. Vet Hum Tox. 1984;26:157-158.
Watch children carefully when they are playing outdoors. Bring only non-toxic berries indoors for decoration.
This Really Happened
Case 1: A 2-year-old boy ate about 3 handfuls of pokeberries. His mom brought him to the emergency room and the emergency physician called Poison Control for advice. Activated charcoal (specially treated charcoal that helps bind drugs and toxins) was recommended as well as four hours of observation for abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Five hours after the child swallowed the berries Poison Control followed up on him in the emergency room. He was doing fine and was going home shortly. In a follow-up call to his mom the following day, she reported that he remained his normal self.
Case 2: An 18-month-old girl ate an unknown quantity of Lily of the Valley berries while at a relative's home. She was vomiting. The relative called her mom at work and her mom called Poison Control right away. The time of ingestion was estimated to have been about 5 hours before. Poison Control recommended evaluation in the nearest emergency room since this plant contains a toxin called a cardiac glycoside that may cause a slow heart rate as well as vomiting. The emergency room called the poison specialist who recommended overnight observation on a cardiac monitor. The child vomited several more times but her initial EKG in the emergency room was normal. She was admitted overnight. By the next morning, her vomiting stopped. Her EKG and blood work were normal and she was sent home. In a follow-up call from Poison Control the following day, her mom
reported that the child was back to normal.