What is mushroom poisoning?

Mycism, more commonly known as mushroom poisoning, is a bad reaction to eating toxic substances found in certain mushrooms. While most of the time, mushroom poisoning often includes gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea, the condition can be life-threatening. Treatment of mycetism involves inducing vomiting. More than 90 percent of mushroom poisoning cases occur by accident when a person misidentifies and then ingests a mushroom.

Of the thousands of species of fungi, approximately 100 types of fungi are toxic to humans. Of those 100 species, around 20 are lethal when consumed by humans. Cooking or boiling a mushroom does not change its toxic properties. A person may experience symptoms soon after consuming a poisonous mushroom or even days or weeks later. The severity of symptoms depends on the type of toxin ingested, and fungi that produce symptoms within two hours are less dangerous than those that produce symptoms much later.

One of the deadliest toxins found in mushrooms is orellanine, which can cause kidney failure three weeks after being ingested. Another potentially deadly toxin includes muscarine, which can cause respiratory failure. Also, alpha-amanitin is a deadly toxin that can cause liver damage the day after consumption. Some mushrooms contain ibotenic acid or psilocybin, which can produce hallucinogenic effects and cause a person to experience agitation, fear, and confusion. Magic mushrooms may require treatment in an intensive care unit.

When a person suffers from mushroom poisoning, they should seek medical attention immediately. To make a diagnosis, the doctor will want to identify the mushroom consumed, as well as find out when the mushrooms were eaten and how soon symptoms appeared. Other helpful information may include whether other people have also eaten the same mushrooms and whether they are also experiencing symptoms of mushroom poisoning. Many times, the doctor can consult with a local fungal expert.

Many times, a person can tell if a mushroom is poisonous based on how it looks. A mushroom may be poisonous if it contains warts or scales on the top, or if there is a ring around the top of the stem. Bulb-like stems are also indications that a mushroom might be poisonous.

During treatment for mushroom poisoning, a person will often be given activated charcoal to induce vomiting. In most cases involving mushroom poisoning, once a person vomits, they are free. During treatment, the patient's temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure will be monitored. Children and older adults may experience the most severe symptoms.

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