Milkweed Handling Hazards: A Forum Discussion

gwtamaraJanuary 1, 2013

Most people are aware of the handling-hazards of poison oak/ivy and nettles. Milkweed is not so well-known as an irritant; after all, it has the nice word "milk" in it and the white sap looks like milk.

When handling milkweed, take care to keep the white sap from broken milkweed pieces away from your eyes or other sensitive areas.

The following forum discussion includes member's experiences with milkweed, remedies, and preventative measures (Edited for brevity and subject flow).

Milkweed Toxins: Posted by flcajun fl 9 on Dec 5, 2006

Here in FL, we don't have any warning signs on the Milkweed about them being toxic for humans. Since my eyes were nearly ruined a couple of years ago when I got some in my eyes, I am eager to see something done here. Do any of you know if there is an institution responsible for requiring such notice by nursuries, etc.? My eye Dr. wants to have it established in our state if she can contact someone doing this.

Posted by flcajun fl 9 on Dec 6

This is how I contracted so much corneal trauma: I had been picking Milkweed leaves to feed my Monarch cats. I must have forgotten to wash my hands and put in my contact lenses. Several hours later, my eyes began to burn and get red. I was working in a wildlife refuge so had no way to take out my lenses until later. By then, my vision was blurring. Next morning I made an emergency appt. with my Dr., and she knew about Milkweed and eyes. When I told her I was with my butterflies before this happened, she made the connection. Treatment was finally sucessful though very expensive: salves and pills. She warns all her patients who tell her they have a butterfly hobby. Evidently this plant is known to cause corneal problems if hands are not washed thoroughly. I don't even touch my eyes outside now. Hope that helps ring the alarm.

Follow-Up Postings:

Posted by tdogmom z9/10 SoCal on Dec 7

I've had TWO mishaps with Milkweed latex/sap. P Both were obviously unintentional and I didn't even realize I'd had any on my skin. My poor ophthalmologist rolls HIS eyes when I call now, thinking, "It must be that ol' goofy butterfly plant again!" I am really careful about washing my hands and when I teach the children and teachers about butterfly science, I tell them about the 'poisons' associated with it. I also make sure that EVERYONE washes their hands after touching ANY of the plants since even RUE can cause allergic contact dermatitis.

With my eyes, I developed a fuzzy, blurred vision for over two weeks. My eye burned and was just a mess. Red, swollen (literally! Looked like one of those creatures on TV) and just odd overall...not something you'd wish on anyone. So, care is needed with Milkweed and probably just about any plant.

Posted by ericwi Dane County WI on Dec 9

I too, have managed to get small amounts of milkweed sap on my skin and in my eyes. In my experience, a long shower, taken as soon as possible after exposure, eliminates the adverse symptoms. Lots of warm...

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