Mushroom Poisoning

Foraging for mushrooms has become a popular pastime, particularly in the Northwest where wild mushrooms grow in abundance. The trick is in understanding which mushrooms are safe and which are poisonous. Mushroom poisoning is the result of the ingestion of toxic substances present in a mushroom, which typically occurs after a person misidentifies a toxic mushroom as an edible species or does not prepare the mushroom properly. Unfortunately, some toxic mushrooms resemble their edible counterparts in color and general appearance.

The best way to prevent mushroom poisoning is to become very familiar with the mushrooms they are planning to pick as well as any mushrooms that look similar. It is important for foragers to know that edibility or toxicity of some species varies with geographic location.

How can I tell if a wild mushroom is poisonous?

Although there is no way to tell for sure if a wild mushroom is poisonous or edible, there are some tips that can help in identification. Mushrooms growing in the ground are more dangerous than mushrooms growing on living trees. Mushrooms on the ground in forests are usually more dangerous to people than mushrooms on lawns.

7 Signs and Symptoms of Mushroom Poisoning

Note that symptoms can vary considerably depending on the mushroom involved and the amount consumed. Symptoms may appear right after the mushroom was eaten or may appear several hours later. Typically, mushrooms that produce symptoms within two hours are less dangerous than mushrooms that produce symptoms after six or more hours.

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Hallucinations
  • Neurological impairment

If you suspect that you or a loved one has mushroom poisoning, call your doctor or the Poison Control Center (open 24/7). The phone number for the Poison Control Center is 1-800-222-1222. Call 911 immediately if the person is unconscious, not breathing or convulsing. If you are very concerned but the person is still conscious, bring the person into the emergency room. Either way, it is a good idea to provide medical staff with a few of the mushrooms that were ingested.

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