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Can you be allergic to Monstera? Yes, you can. All species of monstera have been shown to be potentially toxic to humans and animals including dogs and cats. Monstera mainly affects humans by contact and in some cases by ingestion, for reasons that will be explained a little further down.
Humans suffer allergies primarily in one of three ways; either by inhalation, ingestion, or by contact with the skin or membranes. If you suspect that you’ve been suffering from allergic reactions to your monstera, read on.
There are many houseplants that are toxic or allergenic to humans and animals, to varying degrees of severity. Monstera, thankfully, is not normally fatal. In fact, it is considered a low-level toxicity plant in that respect.
But it can cause severely uncomfortable reactions. So, let’s talk about the causes, effects, and what to do if you’re suffering from an allergic reaction to monstera.
Monstera is a popular plant genus amongst those with green thumbs. They are a lush deep green, often with large, attractive leaves.
There are in fact 48 types of monstera, though some, like the deliciosa, are more common than others. Some species are uncommon, like the extremely rare Monstera Obliqua.
Monstera is occasionally known as the Swiss cheese plant and hurricane plant and is part of the Araceae family.
Monstera are sometimes also confused for split-leaf philodendrons, although, technically, monstera and philodendron are not the same plants.
There is a particular cause for toxicity when it comes to monstera. While some plants cause allergic reactions through their pollen (a common occurrence), monstera has a more painful strike, so to speak.
It’s caused by the presence of calcium oxalate crystals. Some scientists feel there are minor additional toxins in some monstera, but these are yet to be confirmed as a major cause of allergic reactions.
The crystals contribute a toxic quality to the plant’s sap. When the sap comes in contact with the skin, it causes itchiness, irritation, swelling, and sometimes eczema. (Nasty.)
Of course, these symptoms can be doubly annoying if, for some reason, those same crystals or sap come into contact with your eyes, lips, tongue and other sensitive areas of the body.
And if you or perhaps a small child manages to chew a monstera deliciosa leaf or swallow any of it, it will cause a nasty and extremely uncomfortable (possibly painful) internal reaction.
In very rare cases, and when there is an extended period of exposure (or a lot of it is ingested), it may become dangerous. Here’s why these oxalate calcium crystals are not to be trifled with.
Oxalate crystals are not actually uncommon – you likely drift past them in your everyday life. They are found in most green vegetables and leaves.
When the oxalate combines with calcium and finds itself in an environment with too little water, it crystallizes into hard deposits. In humans, when this happens, we get the dreaded kidney stone.
Yes, it’s the same substance. In some plants like the monstera and dieffenbachia, these crystals can form in a dangerous needle shape, which is sharp and causes micro-lacerations.
On a side note, the crystals in dieffenbachia are so severe, they can even cause an inability to speak if ingested.
The barbs and needs of the crystals irritate the mouth and throat membranes so much, that the plant is known as the dumb cane (dumb as in unable to speak, see?).
Fortunately, cases involving monstera are not typically so severe. But it can be an awful experience, nonetheless.
It certainly can cause a great deal of itchiness. Let’s get specific:
Symptoms of coming into contact with the sap of the monstera plant can cause irritation of the skin. It will be itchy and in extreme cases painful.
For this reason, it may be a good idea to invest in a pair of gardening gloves to prevent handling the plant with bare hands.
Anyone who eats the leaves or stems of the plant may suffer burning mouth and tongue. If any of the plants is swallowed, the throat will similarly be affected, but you may also experience nausea, vomiting, and cramp.
Let’s start with the least likely cause for concern if you keep your monstera in your home.
The fruit – Monstera sometimes produces fruit in the wild or in a greenhouse environment. Unripe fruit may cause some membrane irritation because of the oxalate presence.
Most housebound monstera will not produce fruit, though, so you may not be too worried about that.
The leaves – Sometimes, a small child may chew on things in your home. Monstera leaves are big and attractive, and a toddler may well fancy a taste.
Unfortunately, they will cause a burning sensation in the mouth. And if they are swallowed in large amounts, it may result in nausea, vomiting and stomach pain.
Monstera has smooth leaves, which is actually positive. Plants with furry leaves sometimes promote airborne allergens.
The stems – More specifically, the sap that may run from the stems (and leaves) of the deliciosa plant if there are small lacerations. This is the main culprit when it comes to irritation of the skin.
Amber alert! The presence of the oxalate crystals makes monstera highly toxic to cats and dogs.
Whereas a human might be able to withstand the toxicity (perhaps because of its relative size), a cat or dog will suffer more severe symptoms if they indeed ingest part of a monstera.
Like a human, they will experience very sore lips, mouth and throat. They will start to act accordingly, drooling excessively, and perhaps drinking excessively, too.
Their mouth and lips may swell and become red. They may even start vomiting.
But it is unlikely that it will outright kill a cat or dog. Chances are that once the bad reaction occurs, your pet will stop eating.
It is unlikely to eat enough monstera to actually be life-threatening. That said, if the symptoms seem serious, consider visiting a vet in short order.
Short of keeping a sharp eye on whether your cat or dog pays special interest to your plants, you may not know whether they have actually engaged in a bit of monstera munching. After all, you can’t watch them 24 hours long.
But if you suspect there’s a problem, here are a few things you can do to discourage a cat from trying it.
Cats hate citrus. Try placing a few orange peels in the monstera plant pot. The more citrusy the smell, the better.
Most cats would rather avoid the area. Some owners also use essential citrus oils in their misting water.
Finally, let’s take a quick look at some of the most common allergy-inducing plants and conditions that may be triggering the itches and scratches and sniffles in your home.
First of all, overwatered plants have the potential to aggravate allergy conditions. This is because overwatering promotes mold and fungus growth, and spores love to irritate membranes.
Here are the 9 most criminal plants when it comes to home-based allergic reactions:
- African Violet
- Bonsai Tree
- Fig (Ficus)
- Ivy (Hedera) = Lots of ivy, other than poison ivy, can be the culprit here. Some ivies even cause respiratory problems and severe dermal reactions, so exercise caution.
- Orchid (Orchidaceae)
- Palm (Arecaceae
Monstera is poisonous. But if you take some basic precautions, you shouldn’t have any problems with the potential allergic reactions caused by monstera.
But rest assured, even if you do slip up. In most cases, the worst you’ll suffer is a rash or irritated skin, and a somewhat nasty and painful stinging of the membranes.
You’re not likely to be in any real danger, so take care of your monstera variegata collection with care, and it will be a wonderful addition to your home life.