San Diego

Man Spends Day in Emergency Room After Contact with Pencil Cactus

"It was like gasoline and chilies were in my eyes," Jesse Mallinger told NBC 7

An Encinitas man says he spent a day in the emergency room and was temporarily blinded after he came into contact with the pencil cactus, or Euphorbia tirucalli, in his girlfriend's garden.

The succulent, found across San Diego County, is toxic to humans, dogs, and cats worldwide and can cause serious intestinal and skin injury, according to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

Jesse Mallinger told NBC 7, it was a pain he never thought he would experience.

Mallinger said he was rushed to the hospital on June 10 after he came into contact with the plant.

"I thought I was having some sort of allergic reaction," he said. "I actually took an antihistamine. It didn't help...I rinsed my eyes out in the shower and that didn't help."

He said he thought it was an ordinary plant, but it turned out to be, what some refer to as, "sticks of fire."

"It was like gasoline and chilies were in my eyes," he said, describing the pain. "It was intolerable pain."

He said his girlfriend's father drove him to the hospital.

Succulent Expert Laura Eubanks told NBC 7, the pencil cactus blossom in the winter. They can be purchased at local gardening and hardware stores.

Eubanks explained that getting in contact with the milky sap, with is latex based, is the problem. It's toxic to pets and humans.

She stressed water and soap might not do the trick, and it might be better to use alcohol to rub off the sap.

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