M'sian girl's mouth swells, spasms & drools uncontrollably after biting toxic dumb cane plant

That's why it is called a dumb cane plant.

Ashley Tan | Sulaiman Daud | June 19, 2019, 04:24 PM

Children love exploring their surroundings, but one young girl in Malaysia suffered the price of misadventure after biting a plant near her house.

Mouth spasms, lips swollen

On June 14, Husnolkhotimah Fahmi, who referred to herself as Hus, uploaded a post to Facebook urging everyone to beware of a particular plant.

According to Hus, a girl named Nashwa was playing outside the house, when she allegedly tore a leaf off a plant and bit it, "just a little".

The four-year-old spat the leaf out and went back into the house to drink water, complaining of pain.

Nashwa then started crying, but with no identifiable wound on her body, her family were unable to determine the source of her discomfort.

Photo from Husnulkhotimah Fahmi / FB

Nashwa then revealed she had bitten one of the houseplants in the garden.

Hus realised after some googling that the plant was a poisonous Dieffenbachia plant, more commonly known as a dumb cane.

According to Hus, Nashwa was unable to close her mouth, and "her lips had a seizure".

The girl was also salivating uncontrollably and her lips had also swelled up.

Photo from Husnulkhotimah Fahmi / FB

Photo from Husnulkhotimah Fahmi / FB

Girl recovered after a trip to the doctor

The family immediately brought Nashwa to the doctor.

The doctor said that if Nashwa had swallowed the plant, the effects would be worse -- there would be swelling of the throat, which might block the respiratory tract.

Thankfully, the doctor ascertained that aside from the swelling of Nashwa's lips, her breathing was fine.

She was then prescribed medicine to "absorb the poison if it entered the stomach".

Hus then affirmed that Nashwa was doing fine the following day.

Be careful where kids are concerned

Hus ended her post by urging the removal of the plant from their premises, as adults need to "provide a safe environment" for their children.

She mentioned that kids would not know better, and would be naturally inclined to explore their surroundings without realising the danger posed by potentially poisonous plants.

She also added that since it was the Hari Raya season, there would be plenty of relatives and children visiting.

Photo from Forest School - Singapore / FB

Dumb canes are not deadly

Hus' concerns are valid.

Some websites have cautioned against placing dumb canes in the vicinity of children or pets.

The sap of dumb canes contain microscopic needle-like calcium oxalate crystals, which reportedly create a burning sensation on the mouth when ingested.

Those affected will also experience intense numbing, excessive drooling, and localised swelling.

Loss of speech is also one side effect, hence the name "dumb cane".

Ingesting the plant is not life-threatening, and touching the dumb cane is fine as long as one does not touch the sap and then proceed to touch his or her eyes and mouth.

Despite its potential toxicity, dumb canes are actually a common ornamental houseplant in the tropics as they are easy to care for and can thrive in any type of light conditions.

They are also considered aesthetically pleasing by home-owners, with their large green-flecked leaves.

In Singapore, dumb canes can be found growing in the wild too.

Photo by Tan Kar-Wei / FB

You can check out the original Facebook post by Hus and the full English translation below:


Guys, just want to share with you all. Maybe someone already knows, maybe not.

If there is a Keladi tree in your garden that looks like the one in this photo, and you have small children, better get rid of it because it's poisonous!

The incident happened the previous evening. Nashwa played outside the house, she picked up the tree/leaf and bit it a little bit. Just a tiny bit.

She entered the house, crying like she suffered from a bad wound, but couldn't see a wound or anything hurting her. Mother panicked, did not know what caused (her distress). This 4 year old girl was afraid her mother would be angry, and did not tell us what happened. After we asked Nashwa, she said she bit the leaves. I asked my younger sibling to Google and they found news about this plant from the MyNewsHub website.

Dieffenbachia. The ornamental tree that is often in the yard. Its leaves contain calcium oxalate which caused itchiness, spasms of the lips and tongue. Yes it's the tree! Nashwa cried as the mouth gaped open, could not close her mouth as her lips had a seizure. Saliva also dripped.

We started the car and brought her to the clinic. Doctor asked if she swallowed anything. Mum didn't know, Nashwa cannot say anything. Doc checked, her lips were slightly swollen, but breathing all ok. The doctor said if she swallowed (the leaves), there would swelling near the throat, and could cause the respiratory tract to be blocked. Doctor gave medicine for swelling, allergies and charcoal to absorb the poison if it entered the stomach. Thank God today she's ok.

Older sister asked Nashwa if she ate the leaves. Then she said she took a stalk and tore the leaves. Then she bites a bit. After that, she spit it out and run into the house to drink water. She said it hurt. Luckily a little bit. If she swallowed a lot? Hopefully God would prevent that.

Hus wants to tell everyone that of all the trees that have been planted, it is best to remove them. Worried that the kids don't know anything and might put them in their mouths. Kids being kids right...they get curious. All kids want to explore. We need to provide a safe environment for them...Keep an eye on what these little kids do. What's more, this Hari Raya season you might have a lot of relatives and little kids visiting. If anything happens always go straight to doctors ok.

Please share so everyone is alert. Hopefully this post is useful.



Top photo from Husnulkhotimah Fahmi / FB and Forest School - Singapore / FB