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Safety is the most important part of any family trip. Keeping your family safe includes more than the basics, like keeping your door locked. You also need to look out for other things that can hurt your kids and pets, like toxic plants.

Children and animals are naturally curious, so the chances of touching a strange plant or putting it in their mouth are high. It’s your job to watch them and keep them away from these potential dangers and to do that you must be able to recognize them yourself.

Recognizing potentially dangerous plants also helps you know what to do if your kids or pets are affected.

Here are five common toxic plants to look out for when traveling with kids & pets and how to identify them.

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

Poison Ivy might be the most well well-known toxic plant – and for a good reason. The plant’s sap contains a compound called Urushiol. That’s what causes you to develop a rash when you touch it. The rash doesn’t form immediately. It can actually take up to four days to develop.

The rash is also long-lasting. It can stick around for up to three weeks. A rash from poison ivy typically presents as red splotches or raised blisters in humans. It’s less common for pets to be affected by poison ivy, but that doesn’t mean it never happens. Furry animals can also be carriers of the urushiol oils, which can then come in contact with humans.

Inhaling the smoke from burnt poison ivy can also be harmful to your lungs, so you should be careful where you start your campfires when you’re out camping.

You need to be extra vigilant while looking out for poison ivy because it can easily be mistaken for other, non-toxic plants. There’s a saying that goes, “Leaves of three, let it be” keep it in mind when trying to identify if a plant is poison ivy.

If you notice that your pet or kids have come in contact with poison ivy, wash the affected area immediately. Wiping the area with rubbing alcohol also works for humans.

Poison Ivy is everywhere in the world. It’s mostly grown in woodland areas.

Pokeweed (Conium maculatum)

Pokeweed is another common toxic plant and, being one of the most frequent causes of plant poisoning in the United States. It has berries that can be mistaken as edible, as they look similar to blackberries. You should be able to differentiate it by the egg-shaped leaves of the pokeweed plant.

Its fruit blooms in the summer, so while the plant is dangerous all year round, that’s the time you need to be the most cautious. It only takes one pokeweed berry to cause harm to your child or pet.

Eating pokeweed isn’t the only way for it to harm you. Touching pokeweed with your bare hands can lead to chemicals entering your body. Side effects of Pokeweed include but arent limited to stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, hypotension, and in the most severe cases, death.

The symptoms set in in roughly six hours. If you notice that your kids or pets ate any Pokeweed, take them to seek medical attention immediately.

Pokeweed is found in the eastern areas of North America and the Midwest. The plant grows best in areas with a large bird population, like forests, but they also thrive on farms, roadies, and waste areas.

Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum)

You, your children, and your pets should avoid poison hemlock at all costs. It’s a highly deadly invasive species rapidly across the United States.

Poison Hemlock is identifiable by its stem’s reddish or purple streaks and/or spots. The plant notably has hollow stems. Its leaves are similar to ferns but sport a bright green color.

You could describe the flowers of the poison hemlock plant as beautiful. They’re small, white, and grow in clusters.

Eating any part of the poison hemlock plant can be incredibly dangerous. It can start affecting you in 30 minutes but may also take hours to set in. Some of the symptoms of hemlock poisoning in humans are loss of consciousness, convulsions, tremors, and dilated pupils.

In pets, the symptoms are different. They include drooling, hyperactivity, collapse, and an increased heart rate.

Poison hemlock is an invasive species that grows best in moist areas.

Baneberry (Actaea)

Don’t let the word berry in this plant’s name fool you – eating this plant can lead to heart failure. Other symptoms caused by ingesting baneberries include dizziness, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and confusion.

There are two species of this plant, and both are easily identifiable.

White Baneberry is often called doll’s eyes due to its berries’ distinct resemblance to the eyes of the children’s toy. These berries appear during the summer. The white variety of the plant has small, shiny berries with black dots.

Red baneberries fit the same description; except instead of the berries being white, they are a striking red color.

Both plants have large, spikey leaves with a sawtooth pattern. They have clusters of tiny white flowers.

You’ll find red berries all over North America. White baneberries, on the other hand, are more localized to the Midwest. The plants grow best in moist areas.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

The stinging needle is one of those plants that you should never touch. The leaves of this common toxic plant leaves are coated with irritants such as formic acid. The leaves have a heart-shaped base and indents on it’s and are pointy at the tips.

Small “hairs” will grow up the stalk and stem of the plant. When you touch these hairs, they pierce your skin and inject you with irritants. These irritants cause a painful, itchy red rash in humans. They may also trigger an allergic reaction.

In pets, it can cause vomiting, drooling, panting, swelling, loss of coordination, and diarrhea. The plant’s main irritant is an acid, so if your child or pet is experiencing symptoms, you can neutralize the poison by washing the affected area with a basic chemical.

Stinging needles are common around the USA, but they’re especially common in Massachusetts.

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