Oleander bush tempts, nearly kills baby

Jaffa mother rushes to hospital after her one-year-old son eats plant leaves, which are poisonous.

May 8, 2012 05:12
1 minute read.
Michal Simhovich, her son, Dr. Houri_370

Michal Simhovich, her son, Dr. Houri_370. (photo credit: Barak Nona/Wolfson Medical Center)


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With its pink, red or white flowers and bright green leaves, the oleander could look attractive, even for munching on, but when a one-year-old baby from Jaffa chewed some of the plant’s leaves this week, he ended up in the hospital.

The leaves of the oleander contain a very potent toxin that is used to make rat poison.

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The Simhovich family went on a family trip in the area. The baby boy, Hod Ariel, stretched out his arm and pulled at leaves and flowers from an oleander bush, putting some in his mouth. His mother Michal, who has a book on plant types at home, quickly recognized the bush as poisonous and rushed to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon – taking a sample of the leaves with them.

Dr. Zion Houri, the head of the pediatric intensive care unit, wasted no time and washed out the baby’s stomach.

He knew immediately that oleander contains a chemical similar to that in digoxin, a commonly used cardiology drug. In an overdose, it is potentially poisonous.

The baby was saved and will be discharged in a couple of days.

Michal urged parents to avoid toxic plants and not to let children close to species that may be harmful.

Oleander, which by law cannot be planted near educational institutions, grows up to three meters tall. The flower’s diameter is about five centimeters. Their aroma gets stronger at nightfall.

They can be identified by a deeply five-lobed fringed corolla around the central corolla tube. It doesn’t require much water and thrives even at traffic islands and at the side of roads. Most animals sense that it is toxic and stay away.

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