SEATTLE, NOVEMBER 9, 2016 – The fall mushroom season has begun in the Pacific Northwest Region, and as a result, in the last two months, the Washington Poison Center (WAPC) has handled 10 mushroom exposure cases. With this uptick in calls, the WAPC has posted a seasonal health alert discouraging anyone from ingesting foraged mushrooms unless 100% certain of their identity. Please follow the link to the WAPC website to see the whole seasonal health alert.
“Even though the majority of Washington’s wild mushrooms are not toxic, there are several poisonous species that can cause serious health effects if ingested,” said Dr. Matthew Valento, Interim Medical Director at the Washington Poison Center. “Most commonly these toxic species irritate the digestive system, leading to nausea or vomiting and even kidney and liver damage. The onset of these symptoms can take hours to days.”
The WAPC works throughout the year with the Seattle-based Puget Sound Mycological Society (PSMS) to identify the species involved in potential exposures and promote mushroom foraging safety. Organized in 1964, regular PSMS events are held at the Center for Urban Horticulture, part of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens. Weekly Hildegard Hendrickson ID Clinics are currently being held for the fall mushroom season on Mondays from 4-7pm, and PSMS also offers beginner and intermediate mushroom classes. Visit the PSMS website for more information.
“There is no shortcut to safety when eating wild mushrooms- every one you eat must be positively identified. That said, identification is certainly not beyond anyone’s reach if they are interested, ” said Kim Traverse, President of the PSMS. “It is a wonderful feeling when you know you can rely on your own identification and not simply accept the opinion of another. A little effort can get you there but there are plenty of us around willing to help.”
Important things to remember about mushroom foraging:
- Poisonous mushrooms may resemble edible mushrooms, specifically those found in other parts of the country or world.
- Cooking mushrooms does not inactivate all toxins.
- There are no easy tests or rules to determine whether an unknown mushroom is poisonous.
- Witnessing animals eating mushrooms does not make them safe. Some species toxic to humans are not toxic to other animal species.
- There is no ‘antidote’ for several potentially deadly mushroom toxins.
- Eat only a small portion your first time. Save a sample and if possible, take a photo. This can be used for identification purposes if you become ill later.
- Never consumer mushrooms rotting mushrooms, and do not forage in areas where chemicals may be applied to the ground (for example: golf courses).
If you are concerned about a pet’s ingestion of a wild mushroom, contact the ASPCA pet poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435.
For help identifying non-consumed local mushrooms, contact the Puget Sound Mycological Society. You can find a list of and contact information for all of Washington’s mycological societies here.
If you believe that you or a family member has ingested a potentially poisonous mushroom, or if any symptoms develop within 24 hours of eating wild mushrooms, call the Washington Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.