garden is filled with enticing sights and smells, but it can be a
potentially dangerous place for people and pets. Young children are
especially vulnerable. "We receive 55,000 calls a year and over
half of them are related to children under the age of 6," says
Dr. David Gummin, toxicologist and medical director of the Wisconsin
Poison Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. "Small
children should never be left unattended around plants. You never know
what a child will put in his mouth," he says.
Many common household or garden plants are toxic to humans and pets
when eaten, including lily of the valley, larkspur, philodendron and
thorn apple. Surprisingly, poinsettias are not poisonous, as many
Wild mushrooms are a regular cause for calls to the poison center,
according to Gummin. "If you think your child has ingested a
mushroom, the best thing to do is call the poison center for advice.
Most of our cases are successfully treated at home," he says.
Other substances frequently involved in accidental poisonings
include chemical pesticides and fertilizers. "We use a lot of
different fungicides and herbicides in the garden that can cause
problems. If your neighbor treats his lawn and your dog walks on it,
it could be tracked into the house or absorbed into the skin,"
says Dr. James M. Pugely, a specialist in allergy/immunology for
Columbia St. Mary’s. One solution is to stop using toxic chemicals.
"Many people are going green, using organic fertilizers such as
compost and coffee grounds, or using organic pesticides like weak tea
or other preparations," he says. "Of course, these are much
better for the environment."
Skin infections can occur in the garden, too, according to Dr.
David M. Letzer, an infectious disease specialist with Community
Memorial Hospital in Menomonee Falls. "People will prick their
fingers on the thorns of a rose bush and not wash their hands or get a
sliver while pruning plants and not remove it. Or, they may be injured
while using old, rusty tools. If these injuries are not treated, they
can lead to serious infections," Letzer says. "Be sure to
update your tetanus shot, too," he adds.
Certain insects carry illness. "Lyme disease is a serious
tick-borne illness that people are sometimes exposed to in the garden
or on hiking paths, especially in rural areas. My advice is to use
good sense when you’re outside, pay attention to cuts and insect
bites. Don’t let them become infected," Letzer warns.
Top 10 Pet Poisons
1. Human medications. Pets often snatch pill vials from counters
and nightstands or gobble up medications accidentally dropped on the
floor, so it’s essential to keep medications tucked away in
2. Insecticides. One of the most common incidents involves the
misuse of flea and tick products, such as applying the wrong topical
treatment to the wrong species.
3. People food. People food like grapes, raisins, avocado and
certain citrus fruit can seriously harm our furry friends. One of the
worst offenders is chocolate, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea,
panting, excessive thirst, urination, hyperactivity, and in severe
cases, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors and seizures.
4. Rodenticides. Many baits used to attract rodents contain
inactive ingredients that are attractive to pets as well.
5. Veterinary medications. Even though veterinary medications are
intended for pets, they’re often misapplied or improperly dispensed
by well-meaning pet parents.
6. Plants. Varieties such as azalea, rhododendron, sago palm,
lilies, kalanchoe and schefflera are often found in homes and can be
harmful to pets. Lilies are especially toxic to cats, and can cause
life-threatening kidney failure even in small amounts.
7. Chemical hazards. Chemical hazards, found in ethylene glycol
antifreeze, paint thinner, drain cleaners and pool/spa chemicals, form
a substantial danger to pets.
8. Household cleaners. Take precautions to protect your pets from
common agents such as bleaches, detergents and disinfectants. These
products, when inhaled by animals, can cause serious gastrointestinal
distress and irritation to the respiratory tract.
9. Heavy metals. Lead is especially pernicious, and pets are
exposed to it through many sources, including consumer products, paint
chips, linoleum and lead dust produced when surfaces in older homes
are scraped or sanded.
10. Fertilizer. Last year, the ASPCA fielded more than 2,000 calls
related to fertilizer exposure.
Source: ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center