Friday, October 19, 2018

Poison, Pt 3 - Flora & Fauna

If you are joining the show late, our first installment on poisoning explained some of the medical jargon you will encounter here. Part two covered various types of poison and their effects. In this, our third and final round on poisoning, we are going looking at flora and fauna. Now, there's a ton of poisonous plants and animals out there. Books have been written on them. I couldn't cover them all but here's a few. 

Poisonous Plants
Again, there's a ton of poisonous plants out there. This is just a small taste. (Don't taste these plants!)

Belladonna - Also know as deadly nightshade, belladonna impacts the nervous system causing dry
mouth, enlarged pupils, blurred vision, fever, tachycardia, inability to urinate, sweating, hallucinations, spasms, seizures and coma. Both the berries and leaves are poisonous. It is purported that as few as two berries can kill a child and ten to twenty can kill an adult.

Castor Bean - see ricin

Oleander - I looked through dozens of sites including the CDC and couldn't find an exact time on how quickly oleander affects the body. However, I often saw that medical attention must be expedient and includes gastric lavage. All parts of the oleander plant are poisonous even the smoke resulting from its burning. Symptoms of oleander poisoning are sweating, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, unconsciousness, respiratory paralysis, and, finally, death.

Rosary Pea - Abrin is the poison in the rosary pea. Exposure can be the result of inhalation, ingestion
Rosary Pea
or contact with the skin or eyes. Death from abrin poisoning could occur thirty-six to seventy-two hours after exposure.
    Symptoms of inhalation include respiratory distress, fever, cough, nausea, heavy sweating and pulmonary edema. The build up of fluid in the lungs could cause cyanosis. Finally, low blood pressure and respiratory failure could occur.
   Symptoms of ingestion are vomiting, bloody diarrhea (is there a grosser two word phrase? mercy!), severe dehydration and low blood pressure. Other possible symptoms may include hallucinations, seizures, and blood in the urine. Within several days, failure of the liver, spleen, and kidneys may occur.

Water hemlock
Water Hemlock - Water hemlock is dangerous to ingest or even apply to the skin. All parts of the plant are considered dangerous and can cause death in under twenty minutes. It is said that Socrates was sentenced to death by means of drinking hemlock. Symptoms of water hemlock poisoning are drooling, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, sweating, dizziness, abdominal pain, weakness, delirium, diarrhea, convulsions, heart problems, kidney failure and coma.

Poisonous Snakes

   Y'all, snakes are weapons. If the setting of your manuscript is rural or an area known for snakes, make use of them! Here are a few of the most poisonous snakes and the effects of their venom. Treatment of all bites by poisonous snakes should include professional medical care. One should never put ice on a bite or apply a tourniquet to a bitten limb. Also, an incision should not be made to the wound as it could cause further injury. And, I might as well say it: don't try to suck out the venom! I mean, really?
   Here's a video on snake bites that just makes me happy.  I don't know why they called an ambulance. The awesomeness and raw confidence of that second guy should have been enough to make the snake venom leave the body out of respect!

     There's a ton of poisonous snakes out there. I couldn't possibly cover them all. I chose three biggies. I know I have readers from all over the world. Feel free to tell me what snake is an issue where you live. It will help other writers out on what snake is found where and how much of a problem it is. Oh, by the way, if you've heard baby snakes are more deadly because they can't control their venom, that is incorrect. They are less venomous according to this guy whom I believe because he has an Australian accent and is playing with a dangerous snake WHILE filming!!!!


Coral Snakes - The venom of the coral snake is one of most poisonous snake venoms in the world, second only to the black mamba. And, there is very little antivenin available to combat the effects of their bite. In fact, as of May 2017, the only producer of antivenin had stopped its production.
   The good news is that not many people die of coral snake bites. The fangs of the snake just aren't terribly efficient at piercing skin and don't stand a chance against a decent pair of leather shoes. The bad new is that inefficiency isn't the same as inability.
   If your character is bitten by a coral snake that character is in for some trouble and probably won't have a clue. Symptoms of a coral snake bite don't manifest for at least twelve to eighteen hours after the strike. Symptoms include muscle weakness, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, inability to move eyelids (who knew that was a thing!), blurred vision, decreased oxygen levels, paralysis and respiratory arrest.
Corn and Coral Snakes
Coral snakes look a lot like corn snakes. The latter, however, is harmless. There's a rhyme that helps you identify the poisonous from the harmless and refers to the snake's coloration. "Red on black won't hurt Jack. Red on yellow will kill a fellow!"

Death Adder - Despite being known as Australia's top ambush predatory, the death adder is actually a "sit and wait" kind of predator. If you leave it alone, it will return the favor. (I only know that by reading, not experience.)
   Legend has it that Cleopatra used a death adder to kill herself. If that's true, she sure chose a nasty
Death Adder
way to go. Death adder venom can cause a loss of voluntary muscle control which can result in respiratory failure. Other symptoms of death adder envenomation include abdominal pain, headache, drowsiness and inability to control eye movement.

Rattlesnake (eastern and western diamondback, Mohave, timber) - Rattlesnake venom kills by causing cells of the body to hemorrhage and also by suppressing the nervous system.  
Western Diamondback
 The effects of a rattlesnake bite begin quickly, within seconds of being bitten. Medical help should be reached within thirty minutes of being struck. If left untreated, effects of the venom will increase within a period of two to three days and result in organ failure and death. Symptoms of a rattlesnake bite include sweating, numbness in the face or limbs, lightheadedness, excessive salivation, weakness, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision and difficulty breathing.

Well, that's it for our series on poison. What's the next round about? Well, that's up to you. Let me hear from you on "the Twitter" @carlahoch #fightwrite

Until the next round at, get blood on your pages!