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Poison Hemlock-Induced Respiratory Failure in a Toddler

West, Patrick L. MD*†; Horowitz, B. Zane MD*†; Montanaro, Marc T. BS*; Lindsay, James N. MD‡

Pediatric Emergency Care:
doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e3181bec925
Illustrative Cases

The ingestion of poison hemlock, or Conium maculatum, is described in a 2-year-old boy. He had the onset of abdominal pain and weakness after being fed C. maculatum picked by his sister from the roadside 2 hours earlier. He had a rapidly progressive muscular weakness and was intubated for respiratory failure. His symptoms completely resolved within 24 hours of the ingestion. Conium maculatum is a common weed that causes toxicity by its primary toxin, coniine, which stimulates nicotinic receptors and causes a syndrome of rapidly progressive muscle weakness and paralysis. We describe the course of a benign-appearing plant ingestion resulting in respiratory failure.

Author Information

From the *Oregon Health and Science University, †Oregon Poison Center, and ‡Department of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, Legacy Emmanuel Hospital, Portland, OR.

Reprints: Patrick L. West, MD, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Rd, Oregon Poison Center, Mail Code CB 550, Portland, OR 97239 (e-mail:

None of the above researchers received monetary support for this project.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.