Responding to "my kid ate this, is it poison?"

A few times, I’ve run across an Observation with a description or comment along the lines of “hey my kid/nephew/canary/whatever just ate this plant, is it poisonous? Urgent!!”.

I’m not sure what to do with these, other than tell the poster “please immediately call a doctor if you are concerned”. I like to also note that it often takes time for Observations to get a decisive ID.

Usually I don’t know what the plant is, as I’m still a beginner here. Regardless – whether I recognize it or not, and whether it is poisonous or not – what ought I to do?
I’d like to know what you guys recommend saying or doing.

(I’d also like to know why the #### concerned parents don’t call a doctor or poison helpline first thing!)


And there is still a small but non-zero risk that it might be wrong!


Probably depends on the country, but in the US, for humans who may have ingested something poisonous, they should call poison control. 1-800-222-1222 or their other resources online

(As to your last question, it’s possible iNat is just one of many ways they’re trying to get help. I know when I’m in a bind and don’t know what to do, I seek help from multiple resources.)


I usually see these on Facebook ID groups. I usually just ignore it. If they’re not responsible enough to care for whatever is in their care, I sure as hell am not gonna waste my time with their petty drama. It’s usually blurry photos. But I agree with you, if they’re that concerned, why are they wasting their time on FB or iNat?

1 Like

It’s the same with insect/spider bites and stings and so on… the fear of the unknown has you reaching out for help wherever you can get it from…

I have to resist the temptation to reply “Try eating it yourself, and if you both get sick then it is pretty likely it was, but you could also have both been coming down with the same illness completely unrelated…”, but that of course would be completely irresponsible to do!

My actual response would be that if they are showing signs and symptoms of poisoning, then they should immediately contact a poisons centre, their GP or a hospital, or call emergency services. I think here in NZ a call to emergency services they will put you through to poisons centre after asking some preliminary questions, but I am not sure on that. If they aren’t showing signs and symptoms, but they still have a concern that it might be poisonous, they should place some of the material in a plastic bag and take it (and the ingestor) to their local GP. Otherwise I would suggest watching and monitoring the ingestor for any changes over the next 24 hours and to act accordingly if there are.

The real difficulty with poisonings, is that different people react to different things in different ways. You might recognise the plant, have eaten it before, and give advice that it is safe, but the reality might be that the person has an allergy to it. It should never be looked at as “is this poisonous”, but rather “is this person likely to react adversely to this substance”.


4 posts were split to a new topic: Labels for poisonous/ toxic on iNat

Other than directing the person to seek medical help for their kid, I would not hazard an ID on the plant. Same for any situation where there is uncertainty about whether some organism is toxic, venomous, or diseased (e.g., a possibly rabid bat). It’s not iNat’s responsibility or the people who volunteer here to function as experts in a possible medical situation and I certainly don’t want the possible liability of being wrong.

1 Like

imagine if we had to include a disclaimer with every ID we gave… what a rabbit hole…

This is where it is important to distinguish an iNat observation as “What the identifier THINKS it is” vs “What the organism ACTUALLY is”. It would be an interesting court battle for them to try and prove me wrong about what I think. If anything, the liability would be on the person seeking the identification and toxicity status, for not seeking that determination from an appropriate authority. As an analogy, I can’t rock up to a stranger on the street and ask for directions, and then hold him accountable for missing an appointment because those directions were wrong or inadequate.

1 Like

I should’ve clarified liability in the sense I’d feel responsible. Legal liability is another matter, perhaps highly unlikely, but in a litigious society, who can say for sure.

lol, it is indeed confusing! I would consider anyone that is “liable” for something probably “feels” they are not responsible. Or at least that has been my experiences whenever anyone has done wrong by me… I, of course, have never done wrong by anyone :)

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.