While most of us don't spend a lot of time fretting over what to do if you eat a poisonous mushroom, taking a moment to form a bad mushroom game plan might just save your life, especially if you're a fan of tasty fungi. Mushroom facts are surprisingly interesting; they're neither plant nor animal, and they have diverse effects on the human body. Some are of the harmless variety and are little more than tasty, healthy additions to a pizza or salad. Others are perpetually sought out - often by those dressed in tie-dye - to induce a whole other type of effect all together. Unfortunately, there's also an array of mushrooms that belong to the sneaky, toxic variety you definitely do not what to ingest.
Can a poisonous mushroom kill you? You bet, especially if you don't know what to do once you've accidentally eaten one. Luckily, the grave need not be the only fate of those who have accidentally experienced a toxic mushroom-laden meal. If you come prepared, there are plenty of cures and early warning signs that can help keep you or a loved one eating strange fungi for years to come.
Unless you're an expert on mushrooms, it's a pretty horrible idea to walk through the woods eating the ones you think are okay. The truth is, you should never ingest a mushroom unless you're 100% sure what kind you're dealing with. There are a lot of rumors claiming you can identify safe mushrooms based on broad traits, such as whether they grow on wood or whether it's easy to peel the cap. Ignore such rumors.
Two of the mushrooms that would be deemed "safe" under these qualifications are the Death Cap and the Funeral Bell. As you may have gathered from the context clues in their names, both can be incredibly unsafe to eat. When it comes to mushrooms, it's always better to play it safe than to risk the alternative.
Unfortunately, there's very rarely a specific "cure" or vaccine you can take if you've eaten a toxic mushroom. If you end up digesting a particularly toxic variety of mushroom, then you're looking at a pretty lengthy hospital stay. Fortunately, there are many ways medical experts can help increase your chances of survival and recovery.
Most of them include differing forms of detox and keeping you hydrated while you're throwing up or suffering from diarrhea. The hospital may also administer doses of activated charcoal to help absorb toxins or medications such as silibinin and penicillin.
Among the most important reasons for hospitalization is the ability for your doctors to monitor your vitals. Some of the most severely toxic forms of mushrooms target your organs, so it's incredibly important for your doctors to keep an eye on your liver and kidney function.
The most serious cases of mushroom poisoning are caused by mushrooms that contain amanitin or amatoxins. Fatality rates from amatoxin ingestion soar as high as 50% around the world, and are around 10% in the US, Canada, and countries with easily accessible medical care.
Among the reasons why amatoxins tend to prove so dangerous is that by the time you start experiencing their symptoms, your body may have already absorbed them completely. You may not even suspect anything is wrong until over 24 hours after ingestion. As soon as you do, you should waste no time in getting to the nearest hospital because, unfortunately, the next 24 hours will be a horribly different story. This is where all the vomiting, cramping, and diarrhea tend to come into play.
The most important period, however, can be "stage three," when you will suddenly feel better for about 24 hours and may even be sent home. If you're sure you ingested amatoxins or if the mushroom you've ingested has yet to be identified, insist you'd rather wait it out at the hospital, no matter how much better you feel. The next day is when you're likely to enter stage four, which is when most people pass. Stage four usually manifests as a "relapse" and can include kidney and liver failure or a bleed out.
Poison control centers are most frequently called concerning children or the elderly. The reason why children are particularly at risk is probably obvious to anyone who has raised one. Kids don't tend to be great at discretion when it comes to what they put in their mouths or eat. Many young victims ingest toxic mushrooms when they're playing outside and find a patch growing in the wild. Be sure to talk to your children about the dangers of eating wild mushrooms, particularly if you often serve store-bought mushrooms in meals and are worried they might mistake them for the same food.
When it comes to the elderly, many centers often get calls from people who consider themselves "mushroom experts." They may have grown up picking mushrooms with their families and feel they are well-versed enough in the different varieties to safely identify edible ones. Unfortunately, even many safe mushrooms have look-alikes that are incredibly toxic.