There are several types of mushrooms in North America, but a select few are poisonous and can be dangerous if eaten.
Health risks associated with mushrooms
Certain mushrooms, such as the false morel, may cause vomiting, stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. More serious signs of poisoning may include seizures, coma and death. Other mushrooms, such as the Psilocybe species, contain a hallucinogen. People who have eaten these mushrooms suffered from vivid hallucinations and flashbacks.
Mushrooms in the Amanita family are the most poisonous and are responsible for most of the mushroom-related deaths that occur each year. These mushrooms can cause liver damage; however, they do not produce symptoms until many hours after they are eaten. This can result in delayed treatment and adverse outcomes.
That is why it is critical not to wait for symptoms to appear; if a poisoning is suspected, call the poison center at1-800-222-1222 immediately. Each individual may experience symptoms differently, and as with most poisons, symptoms experienced will depend on many factors, such as age, weight, amount consumed, etc.
Identifying poisonous mushrooms
A mushroom might be poisonous if it has any of the following characteristics (please note: the following list should not be used as a definitive guide in determining whether or not a mushroom is poisonous):
Mushroom identification is extremely difficult and complex and is best left to the experts, who are known as mycologists. The Illinois Poison Center recommends not eating any wild mushroom unless you are 100 percent sure that is not poisonous.
What to Do in an Emergency
If you or someone you know may have eaten a potentially poisonous mushroom, call the Illinois Poison Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222. Then:
- Collect the mushroom in question and carefully dig up a few additional mushrooms, complete with underground parts, to help with the identification. If there is more than one kind of mushroom in the area, collect all of the different types.
- Note if the mushroom was growing on wood, soil or other material, or if it was growing alone or in clusters.
- If possible, take a digital photo of the mushroom to send to the IPC center staff. Using the digital images, the poison center staff consults with expert mycologists in different parts of the state to obtain an initial identification of the mushroom, helping IPC staff make appropriate treatment recommendations.