All parts of the pokeweed plant are poisonous to the touch. The common symptoms of touching pokeweed are skin rash and blisters. Handling pokeweed is rarely fatal, but the symptoms are painful and itchy. The toxin phytolaccine is found in pokeweed leaves, stems, roots, and berries. To remain safe, never handle or attempt to remove pokeweed without wearing gloves and other protective clothing.
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What Happens if You Touch a Pokeweed Plant?
If you handle a pokeweed plant, you are likely to develop a painful, blistering rash wherever the pokeweed makes contact with your skin. This rash is similar to what you would get from touching poison ivy, although the two plants contain different toxins. Pokeweed rash appears 12–48 hours after you touch the plant.
- Touching a pokeweed plant can cause rash, blisters, and hives.
- The rash manifests 12–48 hours after you handle pokeweed.
- The toxin in pokeweed is different from what is found in poison ivy, so treatment may be different.
The phytolaccine found in all parts of the pokeweed plant is not the same toxin found in other poisonous plants. Poison ivy and poison oak contain urushiol. So, the hives and rash associated with the pokeweed plant (Phytolacca americana) may require different treatment than rashes caused by other poisonous plants.
What Should You Do if You Touched Pokeweed?
If you touched pokeweed, wash the affected skin with warm, soapy water as soon as possible. This will help to remove the plant’s toxic oils from your skin. Showering is a great idea because it allows you to wash pokeweed off every area at once. Do not take a bath or bathe a child that has touched pokeweed. The oils in the pokeweed will be lifted off the skin by soap and water, but if these oils are suspended in bath water they can spread and make contact with previously unaffected skin.
- Wash your skin with warm, soapy water wherever you touched the pokeweed.
- Shower to help rinse off pokeweed oils—bathing can spread the oils and make the rash worse.
- Contact your doctor or an urgent care center for a treatment plan.
- If you have difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, or cramps after exposure to pokeweed, seek emergency medical care immediately.
Pokeweed rash on the skin is seldom deadly, but some individuals may have a severe allergic reaction to the plant. Additionally, the reaction can be much worse if pokeweed berries were eaten. If you or a loved one is experiencing trouble breathing, vomiting, cramps, or diarrhea after exposure to pokeweed, call 911. For treatment of less severe symptoms, reach out to your doctor or an urgent care facility.
What Part of Pokeweed is Poisonous?
Every part of the pokeweed plant is poisonous. This includes the roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and berries. Skin contact with any part of the pokeweed plant can cause a painful skin rash. So, it is essential to wear gloves, long sleeves, pants, and eye protection whenever you are working near pokeweed.
- All parts of the pokeweed plant contain the toxin phytolaccine.
- The leaves, stems, flowers, berries, and even the roots of pokeweed are poisonous to the touch.
- Burning pokeweed can release toxic smoke that is dangerous if inhaled.
Even the smoke from burning pokeweed can be harmful. So, before you consider burning pokeweed to get rid of it, keep in mind that the toxins in pokeweed can be carried in smoke. Inhaling the smoke from burning pokeweed can pull phytolaccine into your lungs, which can cause inflammation of your lungs and airways. This can lead to difficulty breathing and put you at risk of death.
Is Everyone Allergic to Pokeweed?
Not everyone will experience an allergic reaction from handling pokeweed. Some individuals are more sensitive to handling the plant than others. However, it is always best to wear protective clothing when working to remove pokeweed. Even if a small amount of exposure does not cause an allergic reaction, the more pokeweed oils you are exposed to, the more likely you are to get a painful rash.
- Some individuals have a higher risk of developing a rash from pokeweed than others.
- The more you touch pokeweed, the more plant oils will make contact with your skin, which increases the risk of rash.
- Pokeweed berries are much more dangerous than touching the plant—never allow humans or animals to eat the berries.
Although some people may not experience an allergic reaction after touching pokeweed, the berries are almost always dangerous if consumed in large enough quantities. Pokeweed berries often resemble grapes. Children, pets, and livestock may mistake the berries for edible fruit. Eating these berries can lead to an extreme allergic reaction and a medical emergency, so the fruit should always be avoided.
Should You Leave Pokeweed in Your Garden?
It is best to remove pokeweed from your garden to prevent any contact that could cause an allergic reaction. To remove this poisonous plant, wear work boots, pants, long sleeves, gloves, and eye protection. Then, dig up the pokeweed to remove it from the roots. Immediately trash the pokeweed you have dug up. Even if the pokeweed appears dead, take these precautions. Dead pokeweed plants can still contain enough toxic oils to cause an allergic reaction.
- Remove pokeweed from your yard and garden since it is poisonous and puts animals and humans at risk.
- Wear protective clothing, gloves, and goggles to remove pokeweed.
- Pokeberries can be deadly to children, livestock, and pets when consumed, so you should kill pokeweed on your property.
If you have small children, pets, or livestock it is even more essential to remove pokeweed. Children and animals are likely to view pokeweed berries as food. Any person or animal that eats any part of the pokeweed plant is at risk of vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and even death. To protect your family, it’s a good idea to kill the pokeweed in your garden.
Is Pokeweed a Skin Irritant?
You may have heard that the pokeweed growing in your yard is poisonous. Here are the facts about the dangers of pokeweed:
- Touching any part of a pokeweed plant can cause skin rash, blisters, and hives.
- Pokeweed rash shows up 12–48 hours after contact with the plant.
- Rash caused by pokeweed is rarely deadly, but it can trigger a life-threatening allergic reaction in some individuals.
- If you experience difficulty breathing, cramps, diarrhea, and/or vomiting after handling pokeweed, seek emergency medical help.
- Eating pokeweed berries is even more dangerous than handling the pokeweed plant.
- Wear gloves, goggles, and protective clothing to remove pokeweed from your yard.
Because pokeweed is so common, it can easily invade your garden. It’s a great idea to carefully fight back against this toxic plant, to keep yourself and your family safe.