Q. Should parents of young children be concerned about dangers from holiday-season plants such as poinsettias, mistletoe, holly and the Christmas tree itself?
A. "The one you have to be incredibly worried about is the mistletoe," says Dr. Jill Creighton, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Stony Brook Children's Hospital. Both the leaves and berries are poisonous if ingested.
Fortunately, mistletoe usually is hung high up on a door frame or ceiling, where children can't reach it. But if it were to fall and a child were to eat any of it, a parent would need to call a poison control hotline immediately and would likely be instructed to take the child to an emergency room, Creighton says. "It's not a wait-and-see thing," she says. "I'm not into scaring people, but it's better to have the knowledge. Go with the fake mistletoe."
Kids aren't likely to eat a holly leaf because it's pointy, Creighton says. "Most of the time you're worried about the berries," she says, which can be toxic, but not as dangerous as mistletoe.
Poinsettias get a bad rap because, if eaten, they may be slightly toxic to pets, Creighton says. However, while they might cause a localized reaction around a child's mouth, they aren't likely to cause a life-threatening response, she says.
And the biggest danger of a Christmas tree is it toppling over on a child, Creighton says. Parents should be sure any tree is securely anchored.