The risk of poisoning during holidays

Holidays, particularly Christmas, New Year, Easter and the First of May are associated with the risk of poisoning, as children suddenly find new things at home. The parents may be occupied with other matters, and children may get their hands on hazardous agents more easily.

Alcohol, such as mulled wine, punch or sparkling wine, is often available at parties and festive occasions. Even a small amount of strong spirits may cause poisoning in a child.

Below you will find information on common seasonal substances and exceptionally poisonous products and plants. The list only contains information on products currently available in Finland. For more information, please search the plant, fungi and substance pages on the Poison Information Centre's website.

To ensure prompt administration in an emergency, always keep a sufficient amount of activated charcoal in your medicine cabinet.

Easter

Daffodil bulbs are poisonous. Ingestion may cause mild gastrointestinal symptoms. Easter cactus is a non-poisonous plant.

Ingestion of rye-grass, or Easter grass, is not known to have caused poisoning in humans.

The foil covering of Easter eggs is non-poisonous if swallowed.

1st of May

Inhalation of a small amount of helium gas is not harmful. If a child does the “Donald Duck -voice” for long periods, it may cause symptoms due to oxygen deprivation, such as headache and dizziness. Oxygen de​privation may worsen certain pre-existing conditions?

Foil balloons and serpentine spray are non-poisonous if swallowed.

When properly fermented, traditional Finnish mead (sima) made from water and brown sugar does not contain alcohol. There might be some ethanol residue, but not so much as to pose a threat to small children.​​

Midsummer

Many plants flower until midsummer. Some of these such as the burnet rose (Rosa pimpinellifolia) and the globeflower are non-toxic. The commonly encountered cow parseley (Anthriscus sylvestris) and meadow buttercup are locally irritable and ingestion can lead to symptoms from the mouth, skin or gastrointestinal tract. If a child has tasted one of these plants, their mouth should be thoroughly rinsed. St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) and lily of the valley (convallaria) are toxic, however, ingestion of a small amount rarely causes symptoms. More information on the toxicity of Finnish plants can be found on the plant listing.

The Finnish Poison Information Centre doesn’t provide plant recognition services, thus the plants should be recognized on site. 

Animal bites and stings

In case of confirmed or suspected viper bite​ a doctor should be consulted without delay. For non-toxic animal bites or stings your local health care centre or emergency can provide help. 

The consistence of repellents and pesticides varies. In case of suspected toxicity contact the Finnish Poison Information Centre for product specific information. It is, however, generally safe for a child to taste a small amount of mosquito repellent and no specific treatment is necessary.

Barbequing and cooking

If a child has consumed a small amount of lighter fluid and is free of symptoms they can be followed at home. If, however, cough, vomiting or shortness of breath develops do not hesitate to contact your local hospital. For further information see petroleum products​.

To ingest a small amount of matches (less than 20 heads) is harmless. Ash is non-toxic if swallowed.

Pay attention to etherical ‘sauna-oils’

An amount as small as 1 tbs of pure etherical oils can cause serious symptoms in children. Always contact the Poison Information Centre in case of ingestion for product specific advice.


Christmas

Many of the traditional Christmas flowers are not poisonous or only mildly toxic. The Christmas rose helleborus niger (see image) however is toxic and can cause severe poisoning. Ingestion may cause topical irritation, a bitter taste in the mouth, numbness of the mucous membrane and gastrointestinal symptoms. Administer activated charcoal without delay and contact the Poison Information Centre or your physician for more information.

Typically, ingestion of poisonous flowers causes gastrointestinal symptoms and irritates the mouth and skin. Christmas flower poinsettia is a plant that causes topical irritation. Ingestion may cause mild irritation in the mouth and in the stomach.

Amaryllis, hyacinth and tulip bulbs are poisonous and ingestion may cause gastrointestinal symptoms.

Ardisia, Christmas cactus and kalanchoe are non-poisonous plants.

Craft supplies are usually non-toxic

Glitter, gel candles, candles and artificial snow are non-toxic and harmless, even when swallowed. Sucking on metallic ink markers (silver, gold) is harmless, but the inhaled fumes can cause symptoms.

Christmas tree ornaments and their colouring agents are non-toxic.

Sparklers are non-poisonous if sucked on. They are poisonous if eaten, and cause gastrointestinal symptoms in particular. If the amount swallowed exceeds 2 cm (1 cm in the case of large sparklers), activated charcoal should be given.

Coloured lamp oil may be tempting

A child who has swallowed a small amount of lamp oil can be monitored at home. If the child develops a cough, vomits or his/her breathing becomes shallow, take the child to hospital or to see a doctor.


Mulled wine (glögi) should not be heated in a water boiler, as stomach-irritating copper is released from the heating coil.

The Christmas ham thermometer may break during the roasting process. It does not contain mercury but usually a red or blue coloured petroleum product. The ham is edible in any case. The discoloured part can be removed.

 

New Year

Fireworks, sparklers and alcohol are harmful to children and are found in most homes on New Year's Eve.

If a child has ingested a small amount of fireworks, rinse his/her mouth. If the child has ingested more, activated charcoal should be given.

Sparklers are non-poisonous if sucked on. They are poisonous if eaten, and cause gastrointestinal symptoms. If the amount swallowed exceeds 2 cm (1 cm in the case of large sparklers), activated charcoal should be given.

New Year’s tin (tina) contains lead. Swallowing a small piece does not usually cause a risk of poisoning, as it usually passes through the gastrointestinal tract without any problems.

If a child has tasted a liquid from the light stick, flush his/her mouth out and wash away any residue on the skin using soap and water. Liquid in the eye can cause a stinging pain and make the eyes water. However, liquid from the light stick do not cause permanent damage. Flush the eye for 15 minutes. If you detect signs of ophthalmitis, seek medical attention.​​​