DRAPER — While working as an ER nurse 20 years ago, Linda Brown learned the hard way that she was allergic to poinsettia plants.
“It was a big decoration at work, and they brought a whole bunch in to decorate the building,” Brown said. “I knew something was wrong when I started to get the same reaction I get to latex.”
Brown and two of her sisters have a latex allergy, but it wasn’t until this incident that she realized she was allergic to poinsettias too. Since the festive plant is a member of the rubber tree family, those with latex allergies are also allergic to poinsettias.
“There is something in those plants that gets into the air and our body thinks it’s dangerous,” she said. “So I get really red just in the face and then my throat swells shut, and it only takes a couple of minutes for me to lose consciousness.”
She was given a dose of epinephrine during her first allergic reaction to the plant and now carries the EpiPen wherever she goes.
“It can be scary to think about,” she said. “If this happens, and I was on my own, I would die.”
Holidays are the hardest for Brown with all the grocery stores, buildings and churches decked out with the red plant.
“You really can’t go anywhere, they are such a big decoration,” she said. “I have my husband go to the store for me, and if we go anywhere, he walks in first to see if there are any poinsettias.”
Although the allergy has brought fear to everyday activities, she doesn’t hold ill will toward the plants or those who choose to decorate with them.
“They are pretty! I’ll look at pictures of them and admire them, but I can’t enjoy them near me,” she said.
Brown has learned to live with the allergy and turns down invitations to activities where there could be the dangerous plant. She hopes others can be cautious and recognize the potentially ugly side of this pretty plant.
“I would just be really careful and be thoughtful of others as much as you can,” Brown said.