What to Do if You Have Mushroom Poisoning?

The death cap mushroom is responsible for more than 90 percent of fatal mushroom poisoning. The first symptoms of poisoning often only appear after six to twelve hours.

There are several thousand types of mushrooms in Germany. And while many of them look delicious, eating them can be life-threatening. Experts, therefore, recommend that only experienced collectors should eat mushrooms they have collected themselves. Because almost every edible mushroom has a poisonous double, when it comes to identification, it is not enough to solely trust a mushroom identification book or an app. Mushroom experts can help decide whether a mushroom is edible or not. The German Society for Mycology has trained and tested voluntary mushroom consultants nationwide.

Death cap and meadow mushroom

The death cap mushroom is responsible for more than 90 percent of fatal mushroom poisoning. Amanita mushrooms are currently found in large numbers in some regions in northern Germany, not only in the forest but increasingly also in urban front gardens. And often they grow right next to edible mushrooms. This often leads to dangerous mix-ups. The death cap mushroom is often confused with the meadow mushroom. The toadstool has a clearly defined tuber at the bottom. But above all – and this is the most important distinguishing feature – it has white fins. The mushroom, on the other hand, always has pink and later brownish lamellae. Treacherous: Some of the death cap mushrooms lack the typical green color of the hat. They tend to be creamy white and are therefore particularly easy to mistake for edible mushrooms such as the birch mushroom or pearl mushroom. About a third of all poisonings with the death cap mushroom is fatal.

Liver failure from consumption of death cap mushrooms

The toxins of the death cap mushroom, the amatoxins, destroy the liver. The first symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and hallucinations usually only appear six to twelve hours after consumption. And although the symptoms then initially subside, the toxins begin to destroy the liver about 24 hours after consumption. In the worst case, death cap poisoning can lead to liver failure.

Treat death cap poisoning

Within the first few hours after eating death cap mushrooms, the hospital must remove all remains of the fungus from the gastrointestinal tract. The antidote silibinin (Legalon) obtained from milk thistle can prevent the absorption of the fungal toxin in the liver cells. After the gastric lavage, doctors try to bind the toxin of the death cap mushroom in the body with high doses of medicinal charcoal and stop the liver from being destroyed.

Treatment must begin as soon as possible because liver degradation will continue to progress over time. If the process can no longer be stopped, only a liver transplant can help before other organs fail, such as the kidneys.

Panther mushroom and pearl mushroom

A dangerous double is the panther mushroom. It looks very similar to the pearl mushroom, an edible mushroom that is very popular in Saxony, for example – especially when it is still young. This can lead to life-threatening mistakes, for instance when mushroom pickers from the Ore Mountains go on holiday in northern Germany and pick the panther mushroom there instead of the harmless pearl mushroom.

Poison housling and mutabilis

The poisonous pit is also dangerous for humans. It resembles the edible mutabilis that grows on the trunks of deciduous trees. The two varieties are confused because the poisonous häubling no longer only grows on the trunks of conifers, but also on deciduous trees.

If you suspect mushroom poisoning, go to the hospital immediately

If you suspect mushroom poisoning, you should go to the emergency room of a hospital as soon as possible and inform the Poison Information Center North – telephone: (0551) 192 40. It is advisable to bring the remains of the mushrooms you have eaten with you for the examination and Meal to inform the people involved.

Edible mushrooms are not always edible

Even edible mushrooms are not always edible. Most mushroom poisoning is not caused by toadstools, but by edible mushrooms that are already rotten when collected, transported in plastic bags, or stored improperly. Symptoms can resemble those of actual mushroom poisoning.

  • Muddy or maggot mushrooms should no longer be eaten because the decomposition of the mushroom protein has already begun and in the worst case this can lead to food poisoning: bacteria, mold spores, and decomposed protein cause diarrhea, fever, and nausea.
  • Many forest mushrooms, especially porcini and chestnuts, spoil just as quickly as raw minced meat or fish and should be prepared within 24 hours. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for a day at most.
  • Heavy metals can also cloud the enjoyment of wild mushrooms. Due to their fine network of roots, mushrooms have a large surface area over which they absorb substances from the soil and literally filter the soil. Residual products from industry and households can therefore also be found in the fruiting bodies of the mushrooms. Some accumulate heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, or mercury, which in high concentrations can cause damage to the kidneys, for example.
  • Forest mushrooms often carry fox tapeworm eggs. However, they die off if the mushrooms are heated sufficiently.
  • In general, you should not consume more than 250 grams of wild mushrooms per week.

Apps for identifying fungi are often not helpful

More and more mushroom pickers are using smartphone apps to identify mushrooms. But according to experts, one should not rely on it: The risk of confusion is too great in many cases. They recommend joining a guided hike with a mushroom specialist. Mushroom experts from the German Society for Mycology also check the collected mushrooms.


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