Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tommy and Mushrooms


How frequent are mushroom ingestions?
Every year across the United States, more than 9,000 cases of mushroom ingestions are reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Many hundreds of cases of mushroom ingestions occur each year in California. Children under the age of 6 years account for a majority of these cases. The consequences of mushroom poisoning can be severe.

What is the difference between a mushroom and a toadstool?
Because there is so much misinformation about toadstools and mushrooms, the terms need definition. Some people mistakenly believe the word "mushroom" means an edible or safe variety and the word "toadstool" means a poisonous or bad mushroom. This is incorrect. Many mushrooms are poisonous and some toadstools are edible or safe.

How poisonous are mushrooms?
Medically speaking, "poisonous mushroom" means any mushroom or toadstool that causes an adverse or negative reaction when eaten. Symptoms can range from 6 hours of vomiting to lethal liver or kidney failure.

How many poisonous mushrooms are there?
In the United States, there are about 5,000 types of mushrooms. Of these, about 100 are responsible for most of the cases of mushroom poisoning. Less than a dozen species are considered deadly. However, death from other species, even so-called "safe" mushrooms, has occurred in very young children or in very ill adults. Some of the mushrooms that can cause death in healthy adults are the Death Cap, the Destroying Angel, the False Morel and mushrooms in the Galerina species. Almost every year, someone in California dies from eating the wrong mushroom.

"There are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters. But there are no old, bold mushroom hunters."

What are the facts and fiction about mushroom identification?

FACT: There are no non-scientific tests or rules that can accurately determine the safety or toxicity of a mushroom. Using the following "rules" could prove to be a deadly mistake! FICTION: A mushroom is considered poisonous if:
  • The mushroom stains when bruised
  • The mushroom secretes a milky sap
  • The mushroom turns garlic blue or black when cooked together
  • The mushroom turns a silver coin black when rubbed against it
  • The mushroom tarnishes a silver spoon when cooked with it
  • The mushroom has scales, warts or other types of rough surfaces

FICTION: A mushroom is considered safe if:

  • The mushroom grows on wood
  • Slugs or other insects eat the mushroom
  • Squirrels, rabbits, or other wildlife eat the mushroom
  • The mushroom is dried, boiled, salted or pickled in vinegar
  • The mushroom does not have a ring or skirt on the stalk
  • The mushroom is pure white in color


  • Some people can eat mushrooms with no problems, while other people eating the same mushroom will experience severe vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Some people can have allergic reactions to eating "safe" mushrooms.
  • Some mushrooms are only poisonous if eaten in large quantities.
  • Some mushrooms are poisonous when raw but become harmless when parboiled and thoroughly cooked.
  • Some mushrooms are poisonous regardless of how they are cooked or prepared.
  • Some mushrooms are poisonous only if eaten with alcoholic beverages.
  • Some mushrooms are classified as poisonous because they are hallucinogenic.


  • Some mushrooms that are edible when fresh and young become poisonous when they are old, hit by frost or if they decay.
  • Some mushrooms, for unknown reasons, are poisonous in one part of the country and are not poisonous in another.
  • Some mushrooms that are poisonous to animals do not cause major problems in humans.

Most mushrooms are more dangerous to young children, the aged and the very ill.

Image from

The Faerie Factory

What symptoms do poisonous mushrooms cause?

There are a variety of mushrooms, divided into categories or groups. Each category causes different symptoms.

  • Group 1. CYCLOPEPTIDES: The first signs and symptoms may not develop for six to 24 hours, usually 10-14 hours after the ingestion. Symptoms begin with sharp abdominal pains, followed by violent vomiting and persistent diarrhea, often containing blood and mucous. In three to four days, the patient begins to worsen with symptoms of kidney and liver failure. Death is very possible.
  • Group 1A. ORELLANINE: Symptoms begin 36 hours to 11 days after ingestion. They include nausea, lack of appetite, headache and, most importantly, a severe burning thirst and kidney failure.
  • Group 2. IBOTENIC ACID-MUSCIMOL: State resembling alcohol intoxication develops 30 to 60 minutes after ingestion. Confusion, muscle spasms, delirium and visual disturbances, which last for about four hours, develop following the intoxicated state. Vomiting usually does not occur. Drowsiness and sleep follow and recovery is usually rapid.
  • Group 3. MONOMETHYLHYDRAZINE: After six to eight hours, the patient experiences a feeling of fullness in the stomach followed by vomiting and watery diarrhea. Headache, fatigue, cramps and intense pain in the liver and stomach regions occur, followed by jaundice. Seizures occur in severe cases.
  • Group 4. MUSCARINE-HISTAMINE: Within 30 minutes to two hours after ingestion, symptoms include sweating, drooling, diarrhea, watery eyes, blurred vision, pinpoint pupils, decreased heart rate and blood pressure, and asthmatic breathing. (The sweating, drooling, diarrhea and watery eyes do NOT occur with other types of mushroom poisonings.)
  • Group 5. COPRINE: Symptoms will occur if this mushroom is eaten by a person who drinks alcohol within the next 5 days. Flushing of the face and neck, a metallic taste in the mouth, numbness of the hands and feet, palpitations, and an increased heart rate are the symptoms.
  • Group 6. PSILOCYBIN-PSILOCYN: These are the hallucinogenic mushrooms that alter consciousness. An intoxicated or hallucinogenic condition begins between 30 and 60 minutes after ingestion. The mood may be apprehensive (anxious) or pleasant. The person may experience compulsive movements and uncontrolled laughter. In children, a high temperature (102-106½ F) with seizures may develop.
  • Group 7. GASTROINTESTINAL: Within 30 to 90 minutes of ingestion, sudden severe vomiting and mild to severe diarrhea with abdominal cramps occurs. Symptoms generally last six hours. In children, this may lead to dehydration severe enough to require hospital treatment.

Can we just wait to see if symptoms appear?

Just because a victim does not have any symptoms right away does not mean that everything is OK. Symptoms may not develop until several days later. Not all mushrooms are poisonous. But several people have developed complete liver failure after eating the wrong mushrooms. They received liver transplants and will be taking anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives. If no liver is available for an emergency transplant, the patient could die.

But aren't there antidotes to treat mushroom poisoning?
There is NO antidote for mushroom poisoning!
All mushrooms not bought at the grocery store are considered to be potentially dangerous.
Call the Poison Center as soon as you even suspect a mushroom ingestion. If a significant amount of time passes after the ingestion, treatment at a hospital will be required. Mushroom ingestions can be very serious and emergency treatment may be required.

Spring and autumn seasons with cool, damp evenings encourage mushroom growth. Check your yard for mushrooms before letting young children and pets out to play. Teach children not to taste or even touch ANY outdoor mushrooms.

Don't add mushrooms from the wild to your gourmet dishes unless you are absolutely positive that the mushroom has been accurately identified and is safe. The life you save may be your own.

In the event of a poison emergency, call the nearest poison center immediately by dialing 1-800-222-1222 or contact 9-1-1 emergency services. Ideally, people and animals should never eat mushrooms that have not been identified by an expert or bought at the store. Unfortunately, many mushrooms are difficult to identify even for a trained mycologist, a biologist trained in the study of mushrooms.

How ARE mushrooms identified? Is it easy to do?

Identifying mushrooms is an exact art that is very difficult and time-consuming. Before making a positive identification, mycologists look closely at the color, gills, spores, stalks and base portion of the mushroom. Spores are examined under a microscope to detect differences. The mycologist will also consider where the mushroom was growing, such as in the woods, on a lawn or on a tree before making an identification. Because of the involved process required to accurately identify a mushroom, it is impossible to identify a mushroom from a description over the phone. Gourmet cooks who have harvested wild mush-rooms have been poisoned. To be safe, avoid all mushrooms not purchased at a store.

Now you all must be wondering why I am posting about mushrooms. On September 05, 1975 a family friend, Tommy died of kidney failure as a result of eating wild mushrooms. I miss Tommys infectious laugh, playing piano 'duels' against him and of course his singing. Tommy used to constantly play with my hair, pulling my curls and he would call me Shirley Temple. I would give anything to hear him call me Shirley one more time :0)

Rest in peace my friend...


N Posted by Rain at 9/05/2007 11:50:00 AM


  • Anonymous Lyndon posted at 2:52 PM  
    Sorry to hear about your friend!

    I've heard of people dying from eating bad mushrooms. But I've never come across someone who's had it happen to a family member or friend.

    It's one of those things that are hard to believe, can happen.
  • Blogger Mustafa Şenalp posted at 3:43 AM  
    çok güzel bir site.
  • Anonymous Candy posted at 10:26 AM  
    See, this is why I will not eat mushrooms!

    Remember that night when G.S had been smoking shrooms and walked off the roof of his moms house? It was scary and funny at the same time ;)

    I had a great time at the Goo Goo Dolls concert last night with you. Rock On!


  • Blogger Rain posted at 1:36 PM  
    Lyndon~ Thank you. I was in a state of shock when he died and to this day I will not eat mushrooms.

    Mustafa Senalp~ Welcome to my site and thanks for taking the time to comment here.

    Candy~ Oh geez I had forgotten that night! I do remember I got "a parent lecture" from my dad because of it.

    I had a great time with you too, sweetie! And yes, the hunkalious man at the bar gave me his card, and he called me this morning! ;)
  • Blogger Sornie posted at 6:09 PM  
    Knowing all that, I think it's just easier to avoid wild mushrooms/toadstools altogether.
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