Wild mushrooms are common in the Midwest. The word mushroom is used to describe the fruiting body of various types of fungi. They cannot synthesis their own energy like plants but depend on decaying organic matter for their energy. That's why they're commonly found around decaying vegetable matter, such as manure or rotting roots and stumps. The growth of mushrooms is favored by cool, moist weather. Thus, they are most abundant in spring and fall. Some mushrooms appear in yards after rainfalls. Often, while playing on the lawn young children will taste them. While in many cases the child does not get ill, there is the potential for serious, possibly life-threatening poisoning since many dangerous mushroom species exist in this area.

A major problem is the difficulty in identifying mushroom species. This is impossible for poison center staff who must manage these situations over the phone. In addition, very few individuals (mycologists) who are properly trained to identify wild mushrooms exist. This means that any child who eats a wild mushroom must be treated. In addition to children, dogs often eat wild mushrooms, leading to serious poisoning. Contact the Poison Control Center immediately to discuss treatment.

Besides children who eat unknown wild mushrooms, adults are also occasional victims of poisonous mushrooms. In these cases, the person has mistakenly picked a poisonous mushroom. These later cases are more likely to be serious as the person may eat these poisonous mushrooms in large quantity and may not seek medical attention until severe illness has occurred.

To prevent mushroom poisoning :

  • Before letting children and pets outdoors, check the areas for mushrooms and remove them if found.
  • Teach children all wild mushrooms may be poisonous.
  • Unless you have been trained to do so, it is recommended people do NOT pick and eat wild mushrooms!
  • Correctly identifying edible wild mushrooms can be difficult, even with the aid of field guides.
  • Contact a poison center immediately at 1-800-222-1222 if someone has eaten a wild mushroom and becomes ill.

"There are old mushroom hunters and there are bold mushroom hunters but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters!"

Poisonous Mushrooms

Mushrooms can be poisonous in many different ways. Members of the Gyromitra family, such as the false morel, contain a substance, which may cause vomiting, abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. More serious signs may include seizures, coma and death. Other mushrooms, such as Psilocybe species, contain a hallucinogen. People who have accidentally eaten these mushrooms had suffered vivid hallucinations that may be pleasant or terrifying. The most poisonous mushrooms are members of the Amanita, which are responsible for most of the mushroom-related deaths that occur each year. These mushrooms contain a substance that causes liver damage. They are so poisonous that it is estimated that one mushroom cap from an Amanita can kill a man. Tragically, these mushrooms do not produce symptoms until many hours after they are eaten. By that time, treatment is usually of little value. In addition, mushrooms may also cause illness because they are spoiled. Eating spoiled mushrooms will cause illness similar to other types of food poisoning.