Mushroom poisoning results from ingesting toxic substances present in mushrooms. The illness can range from mild discomfort to death. Out of the thousands of varieties of mushrooms, nearly 100 are poisonous to humans, with 15 to 20 varieties being lethal once ingested. There is no easy way to identify the differences between toxic and non-toxic mushrooms.
Mushroom poisonings usually occur when someone who enjoys eating wild mushrooms mistakes a toxic variety for a non-toxic one. Some edible and poisonous mushrooms are very similar in appearance, making positive identification difficult. Accidental poisonings also occur when a traveler to another country collects a toxic mushroom that closely resembles an edible one in their home country. The toxins involved are produced naturally in the mushrooms themselves and cannot be rendered edible by any amount of cooking, processing, freezing, or canning. Cooking a poisonous mushroom in a sauce can render the sauce toxic, even if the mushroom is removed later.
Symptoms of mushroom poisoning can differ widely between varieties of mushrooms. The severity of the illness is relative to the toxicity of the mushroom consumed. Serious symptoms can appear within minutes, or remain hidden for hours or days after consuming the poisoning agent. Symptoms may include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, severe diarrhea, and blurred vision. Symptoms are normally acute and cause great discomfort.
Mushroom toxins can be divided into four categories. Protoplasmic poisons result in the destruction of cells and cause organ failure. Neurotoxin poisons cause neurological symptoms such as coma, hallucinations, depression, or convulsions. Gastrointestinal irritants are known to produce nausea rapidly, followed by vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping. The last category, disulfiram-like toxins, is generally non-toxic unless alcohol is consumed within 72 hours of eating the mushroom.
A mushroom poisoning that belongs to the group of protoplasmic poisons is the most likely to cause irreversible organ damage and death. Death in a majority of the cases is due to kidney, liver, and cardiac muscle damage and follows a brief period of convulsions and coma. Victims given treatment immediately have a mortality rate of 10%, while victims seeking treatment more than 60 hours after ingesting the toxic mushroom have a mortality rate of 50% to 90%.
Death can usually be avoided with prompt treatment. Without treatment, death can occur within a few days if a potent variety was ingested. The course of the treatment will depend on the type and potency of the mushroom consumed. Recovery will take several months of medical treatment. The most common treatments include inducing vomiting to remove the mushroom from the stomach. Patients having difficulty breathing will require an intubation and mechanical ventilation. Rehydration may be needed for patients suffering from vomiting and diarrhea and activated charcoal may be given to limit the amount of toxin absorbed into the body.
Large outbreaks of mushroom poisoning are rare, with most cases occurring sporadically. Poisoning occur more often in the spring and fall when the mushrooms are at their best. Dangerous species of mushrooms exist in habitats ranging from deep woods to backyards and poisonings can occur at any time or place. Accurate figures on the frequency of mushroom poisoning are unavailable, but with more people gaining interest in collecting wild foods, the frequency of mushroom poisonings are sure to increase.
The Information contained on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or legal advice. If you feel that you or someone you know has food poisoning, seek medical attention immediately by visiting your doctor of by dialing 911.
Do I have a Mushroom Poisoning Lawsuit?
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If you or a loved one have been the victim of food poisoning, you should contact us immediately. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries by filing a food poisoning lawsuit and we can help.