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BRIEF: Are snowberries toxic through the skin?


QUESTION:
My 12 year old son has been collecting Symphoricarpos albus (common snowberry, or waxberry) for about 4 weeks on the weekends. During the last three weeks he has had constant headaches, upset stomach, dizzyiness and tiredness. We just found out that snowberries are toxic and are wondering if it can be absorbed through the skin and could it be causing his problems.

ANSWER:

I am not sure about headaches, but the rest of these signs match those of eating snowberry. Are you sure he didn't eat a few? Indians of the Northwest considered these to be poisonous and called them ghost-berries or corpse berries. I have found no indication that the toxins are absorbed through the skin. If your son did not eat any berries, you also might wish to have your doctors test him for any of several tick-borne diseases found in the Rockies, if he has been spending this much time in the woods. Or it could be something unrelated to berries and forests. I am not a physician but if I were you, I would take him back to the doctor until they figured out where the headaches are coming from.