Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Sarahlynn. Sarahlynn Wonders, “What is the difference between poison and venom?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Sarahlynn!

Do you love the outdoors? Many kids do! You might enjoy hiking, swimming, or maybe just gardening with your family. No matter what outdoor activity you enjoy, it’s always important to stay safe and aware of your surroundings. One wrong step could lead you right into a patch of poison ivy!

If you’ve ever come in contact with poison ivy, you know just how unpleasant it can be. But there are also many other hazards to protect yourself from when you’re outdoors. Some of them are also poisonous—and others are venomous!

You might be WONDERing just what the difference between poison and venom is, anyway. You might hear people use the two words interchangeably. However, that’s not quite right. 

Poison and venom definitely have a lot in common. They’re both toxic. They can both cause mild to serious illness. In fact, venom is a type of poison. However, they’re not the same thing.

The main difference between poison and venom is the way it enters the body. When a person has to touch or eat the toxin for it to hurt them, it’s poison. Poison ivy, oak, and sumac are all examples. However, poison isn’t limited to plants. Animals can also be poisonous, too. Have you heard of the poison dart frog? Just touching it leads to serious illness.  

Venom, on the other hand, has to be injected. Venomous animals always bite, sting, or stab. That’s how they use their venom to protect themselves. It helps them get rid of any known threat. You probably already know about many venomous animals, like octopuses, scorpions, and many snakes.

However, many people don’t realize that venomous animals don’t always inject venom when they bite. That’s because it costs the animal energy to use the venom. The venom comes from special glands the animal has to activate to use it. Then, it has to restore its venom supply. That means either creating it or storing it by eating other venomous animals.

Sometimes, venomous animals bite just to scare a potential predator away. In those cases, they might not use their venom. Instead, they save the toxin for a time when they might really need it. 

Many plants and animals are much more toxic than others. A rash from poison ivy is no walk in the park, but better that than consuming deadly nightshade. It’s one of the most toxic plants in the world! And of course, no one wants to get stung by a bee. But unless you’re allergic to them, bee stings are largely harmless—unlike a sting from the Australian box jellyfish. It’s the world’s most venomous marine animal.

Have you ever come face-to-face with a venomous animal? If one ever bites, stings, or stabs you, assume it used venom. Get to a doctor right away—they can help you protect yourself.

Standards: NGSS.LS1.A, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

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