Hemlock weed poisoning
There's a risk of young children getting poisoned from Hemlock due to its prevalence in Australia.
Sonder avatar
Written by Sonder
Updated over a week ago

Due to a recent hemlock weed poisoning incident involving a young child in the United States, and the abundance of hemlock across almost all of Australia (with the exception of the Northern Territory), we're going to highlight the health risks involving the plant and what to do if physical contact is made.

Sonder’s team of trained nurses and medical professionals are always available to help you whenever you need advice. If you’re concerned that hemlock poisoning has occurred, start a chat or give us a call via the home screen of the Sonder app - we’ll be with you in seconds.

What does it look like?

Hemlock is a herb that grows between one to two and a half metres high, with hollow stems that have reddish-brown or purple spots on the outside. The most notable feature of hemlock are the white flowers that grow in clusters.

This plant is poisonous to both humans and livestock, and is found across most of Australia, often occurring near stockyards, roadsides, and riverbanks.

Flowering hemlock

Signs and symptoms

Hemlock is highly toxic and can cause serious health issues if ingested. Common symptoms of hemlock poisoning may include:

  • Trembling

  • Burning in the digestive tract

  • Increased salivation

  • Dilated pupils

  • Muscle pain

  • Muscle weakness or muscle paralysis

  • Rapid heart rate followed by a decreased heart rate

  • Loss of speech

  • Convulsions

  • Unconsciousness or coma

  • In more severe cases, ingesting this plant can cause serious health issues.

Complications from hemlock poisoning include:

  • Central nervous system depression

  • Respiratory failure

  • Acute rhabdomyolysis, or breakdown of damaged skeletal muscle

  • Acute renal failure

  • Death

What to do

  1. Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance and/or fire services if the air is contaminated with smoke or gas.

  2. Reassure the patient.

  3. Call the Poisons Information Centre 13 11 26, and follow their advice.

  4. If the patient is becoming drowsy, place them in the recovery position and continue to check their airway and breathing regularly.

  5. Send any vomit, containers and notes with the patient to hospital.

Related reading:

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Information sourced from: NSW Dept. of Primary Industries and Healthline.

Image credit: NSW Dept. of Primary Industries

All content in Sonder's Help Centre is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Did this answer your question?