The brilliant red poinsettia is one of the most common latex-producing plants in the world and it’s often used to adorn homes for the holidays. It comes from the family Euphorbiaceae, of which Hevea brasiliensis (the rubber tree) is also a member. The latex is found within the plant’s circulation system. It’s not released until there’s a broken leaf or the plant is broken in some manner. When the leaves or stems are broken, it releases a milky white substance that can cause a reaction in latex-allergic individuals.

What are symptoms of a poinsettia allergy?

Symptoms of a poinsettia allergy are the same as symptoms of a latex allergy. Symptoms of latex allergy may include:

  • skin redness or hives
  • itchy skin
  • itchy eyes
  • nasal drainage
  • sneezing
  • throat irritation
  • asthma.

Severe poinsettia allergy reactions (anaphylaxis) are extremely rare. In 2007, a report described two infants with latex allergy who experienced anaphylaxis after they had direct contact with leaves of a poinsettia plant. If you are at risk for anaphylaxis due to latex allergy, you should keep with you epinephrine auto-injectors – the first line of treatment.

What should I do if I experience a rash from a poinsettia plant?

If you experience a mild skin reaction or rash after touching a poinsettia plant, your doctor may suggest you use an antihistamine or 1% hydrocortisone cream as treatment. Touching a small leaf from a poinsettia plant and then immediately wiping the skin clean is unlikely to result in an allergic reaction.

Can you inhale latex allergens from poinsettia plants?

This is highly unlikely, says Kevin J. Kelly, MD, a latex allergy expert and pediatrician in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It is difficult to identify a mechanism in which an allergen protein from a poinsettia plant would be propelled into the air without a carrier (such as what occurred with cornstarch-powdered latex gloves in the early 1990s).

How can I avoid a reaction to poinsettia?

If you are allergic to latex, it’s best to avoid touching or being around poinsettia plants. The only way for people with latex allergy to prevent symptoms is strict avoidance of latex. “Despite the minimal risk, I encourage latex allergy patients to avoid or limit contact with poinsettia plants due to the remote possibility of an allergic reaction,” Dr. Kelly says. “It would be prudent for most patients to not overreact to the presence of poinsettia plants, as they are likely to be safe.”

What plants produce latex?

Genus/Species Common Name
Hevea brasiliensis Rubber Tree
Euphorbia pulcherrima Poinsettia
Euphorbia splendens Crown of Thorns
Manikot esculenta Tapioca
Acalypha wilkesiana Jacobs Coat
Ricinus communis Castor Bean
Acalypha hispida  Chenile plant