If you have a brand new Monstera plant in your home, you may be wondering whether there are any risks associated with this plant, or whether you can safely touch or even consume bits of it. After all, some Monstera plants are known as “deliciosa” because their fruits taste so good.
Monstera plants do not usually cause allergic reactions, but they can result in an itchy, painful rash on the skin, and they are not safe to consume. The plant’s sap contains calcium oxalate crystals, and these may create a burning sensation and swelling that is similar to an allergic reaction.
Do Monstera Plants Cause Allergies?
Any substance can cause an allergic reaction if an individual’s immune system has an adverse response to it. In theory, Monstera plants can trigger allergies but this is very rarely the case.
If you are having a reaction to your Monstera, it is more likely to be because the plant itself contains some toxins, and everybody will react to these.
Are Monstera Plants Toxic?
You might be surprised by the idea that a Monstera is toxic; these plants look harmless, and some varieties even produce fruits that we can eat. However, the sap of a Monstera does contain toxins that are harmful to humans in certain situations.
Some people are more sensitive to this than others, and even handling the plants can produce a red, painful rash on the skin for certain individuals. However, most people can touch intact leaves without any problem, but damaged leaves and stems will cause a reaction because they transfer the plant’s sap to the person’s skin.
Overall, Monstera plants are considered toxic. Consuming the leaves of one is not safe and will have unpleasant results. Likely symptoms include a sharp, burning sensation where the plant has touched the mouth and lips, possibly followed by swelling, depending on how prolonged the exposure is.
If a person actually swallows some of the Monstera, they will find that the burning sensation worsens and spreads to the throat. This can also cause a sense of paralysis, which may cause the person to panic, as it can make it seem difficult to breathe.
It is very rare for exposure to a Monstera’s sap to prove dangerous, even in the case of consumption. In most cases, it will cause discomfort or pain, localized swelling, and possibly other symptoms such as nausea, but it is not life-threatening and shouldn’t do long-term damage.
However, there are instances in which it causes a more serious reaction, and it certainly shouldn’t be eaten, or even handled regularly if you have a bad response to it.
Why Are Monstera Plants Toxic?
The toxins responsible for this kind of reaction are calcium oxalate crystals. These are found in the sap of many plants, and in some cases they are harmless. However, in plants such as the Monstera, they often form needle-like shapes.
These shapes can cause tiny lacerations when the crystals are consumed or handled, stabbing through the flesh and damaging it. This may cause itchiness, swelling, and pain as the body reacts to the damage and the intrusion of an unknown substance.
You will not be able to see these crystals or the tiny cuts that they make in your skin, as these are microscopic, but they are present and will do damage.
How much your body reacts depends on your individual makeup. Some people will have a much more serious response to these crystals and the lacerations, while others will hardly notice them.
Some people find that they can prune their Monsteras without any protective gear, and others need to wear gloves whenever they do more than brush by the plant.
However, almost everyone will get a painful response if they try to eat this plant, and will experience swelling and burning around the mouth.
How Can I Avoid Reacting To My Monstera?
It is a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly whenever you have touched your Monstera. This may seem like overkill, but it is the best way to remove any residual toxins from your skin and ensure that you are keeping yourself safe from a potential reaction.
Be particularly careful not to touch your eyes, mouth, or other sensitive body parts before you have washed your hands, as these are much more likely to get irritated by the sap.
Washing your hands after the reaction starts isn’t generally good enough; the skin has already been irritated, and it may continue for some time. Instead, clear the toxins off your skin before they have had an opportunity to cause inflammation, and you should find that you get a minimal reaction to it.
You should also take your personal response into account when deciding how to handle your Monstera plant. If you have a particularly strong reaction and it makes your skin prickle to even touch the intact leaves, you may want to get somebody else to take over when you need to handle it.
Ask another member of your household to step in when the plant needs to be moved, repotted, or pruned – and particularly for the latter task, as it is the most likely to expose you to the sap, which contains the calcium oxalate crystals.
If somebody who has less of a reaction to the plant takes over these tasks, they should still wash their hands and follow safety precautions, but this may help to reduce the overall risk.
If you cannot ask anybody else to fulfill these tasks for you, minimize handling your Monstera and consider wearing gloves when you need to do something like pruning it. It is highly unlikely that a reaction will go further than skin discomfort, redness, and perhaps some localized swelling, but it is still better to avoid these responses if possible.
If you do find that you are having a serious reaction or if the rash does not go away after a few days or seems to be getting worse, speak to a doctor promptly for advice and follow their guidance.
What Should I Do If Someone Reacts To The Sap Of My Monstera?
If someone has touched your plant and started to develop a rash, you should get them to thoroughly wash the affected area with lots of lukewarm water. A mild soap may also help to remove the particles and soothe the inflammation.
Usually, this is all you can do, and the inflammation will go away on its own. Applying a cool, damp cloth may help to soothe it, but the skin will soon heal and the swelling and redness will disappear.
However, the person should seek medical care if the reaction seems more major or if the swelling persists.
What Should I Do If Someone Has Eaten Some Of My Monstera?
If someone has consumed some of your Monstera, the first thing that you should do is try to remove the residue of the leaves from their mouth. Usually, it will be a child that has attempted to eat the plant, as the shiny, glossy leaves can look very tempting.
The good news is that the painful, burning sensation comes almost immediately upon attempting to eat the leaves, so your child is unlikely to swallow or chew large quantities of your Monstera.
Gently open the child’s mouth and use your fingers to scoop out as much of the plant leaf as you can. The more you can remove, the more you will reduce the damage. You may wish to wear a pair of disposable gloves to minimize damage to your own hands.
Once you have removed the leaf remains, assess how much you think the child has eaten. An older child may be able to tell you. If possible, get the child to rinse their mouth out with water and spit. Don’t try to induce vomiting.
If the symptoms seem serious, take the victim to a hospital to get checked over, along with a sample of the Monstera’s leaf. In general, this won’t be necessary, but it is better to be cautious and get medical help if you are concerned.
You should also avoid keeping a Monstera plant within reach of small children. Although your child may not eat the plant, they might play with the leaves, and if they break a stem and get exposed to the sap, this could cause a painful rash.
It’s, therefore, best to keep a Monstera out of reach of little ones, at least until the child is old enough to understand that they shouldn’t touch the plant. If you can’t do this, consider moving the plant to another room or installing a barrier around it so your child is not at risk of either touching or eating it.
A Monstera plant is toxic but is not generally an allergy trigger (although almost any substance can cause allergies in rare cases). The sap contains a toxin that will result in a red, painful rash for some people. Trying to eat a Monstera leaf will cause a burning sensation, swelling, and sharp pain.