You’re enjoying a beautiful wilderness trail. It’s been a long walk, and you’re starting to get hungry. But it’s a long way back to the car, and you didn’t bring any food with you. Those mushrooms look delicious. So you eat them.
Soon, you start feeling nauseous. Then you start vomiting and hallucinating. You’re having severe abdominal cramps, and you feel like you’re about to pass out. You ate a poisonous fungus. And if you don’t act quickly, you could die. Here’s
Fungi come in all shapes and sizes. And tens of thousands of organisms fall under the category of fungi. Until the late 1960s, there were only stwo classifications of life-forms, plants and animals.
But these “plants” don’t contain chlorophyll, the green pigment. Without chlorophyll, photosynthesis can’t happen. So in 1969, ecologist Robert Whittaker suggested that these be given their own classification. So the kingdom of fungi was created. Fungi are essential to our lives. They help create penicillin and other drugs. Yeast is a fungus too.
It ferments wine and beer, and helps some breads to rise. And some mushrooms are delicious foods. But if you eat a poisonous mushroom, what can you do to survive?
Step 1: Save some of the fungus
After you eat a poisonous mushroom, it can take 20 minutes to 24 hours before you start feeling symptoms. So keep a sample in a bag, and give it to the medical staff who are treating you. Some fungi have more than one toxin, so keeping a sample is key to surviving.
Step 2: Track the symptoms
Write down the date and time when the fungi was eaten, and how much was consumed. And keep track of the symptoms, and when they occurred. This timeline can help the medical team to treat you.
Step 3: Get to a Hospital
Even if you feel completely fine after consuming a strange fungus, it’s best to assume the worst and head straight for a hospital. This applies to your pets, as well as you and your children.
So if you’re going for a trek in the wild, find out where the nearest hospital is before you leave home. And if you forget to do this, make sure you have your phone with you. It could help to pinpoint your position if you need to call for emergency help.
Step 4: Pack some activated charcoal
If the closest hospital or ambulance is far away, having some activated charcoal could help to save your life. So keep some in your backpack, just in case. Activated charcoal has a different internal structure than regular charcoal. It’s much more porous, and it binds to toxins so your stomach can’t absorb them. Then it passes out through your feces. Sometimes, doctors use it to treat overdoses.
Just make sure it’s activated charcoal, not the stuff you use for barbecues. And if you can, contact a poison hotline before consuming it. You’ve got the poison hotline number in your phone, right?
Step 5: Know your fungi
Remember, peeling or cooking a poisonous mushroom will not make it safe. Only eat a wild mushroom if you are 100% certain that it’s not poisonous. If you’re not sure, just leave it alone. Ingesting even a small amount of the wrong fungus can be fatal. Eating a webcap, a common mushroom in North America and European forests, can cause kidney failure and even kill you. Or, if you eat a False Morel, you can suffer nausea, abdominal pain, and die from liver failure. And there’s also the death cap mushroom. Eating just one is enough to kill a healthy adult.
Step 6: Watch for symptoms
There are many symptoms you can feel after eating poisonous fungi. They could be anything from a pain in your belly to vomiting, diarrhea, or hallucinations. Some fungi are more toxic at certain times of year, as they go through various stages. So a toxic reaction could happen fast, or take a long time to occur. And even sudden, violent reactions can seem to be cured after 24 hours.
At this point, you might be discharged from the hospital. But potentially fatal damage could be happening, even though you are not feeling any symptoms. If you consumed a lot of toxins, be careful for the next week. Be vigilant, and watch for changes in skin color and overall health. It might save your life.
So stick to safe mushrooms that you buy in a grocery store or other trusted sources. You wouldn’t want to stop enjoying mushrooms on your hamburger, or in a stir fry, or with a steak.
- “Mushroom Poisoning Syndromes – North American Mycological Association”. 2021. namyco.org.
- “Life saving steps to reverse poisonous-mushroom ingestion”. Josh, Piven. 2012. Scouting Magazine.
- “Author of The Horse Whisperer recovering after eating poison mushrooms”. 2008. Heraldscotland.
- “7 Poisonous Mushrooms And What Happens If You Eat Them”. Heavey, Bill. 2020. Field & Stream.
- “Mushroom Poisoning | Betterhealth.Vic.Gov.Au”. 2021. betterhealth.vic.gov.au.
- “Facts About The Fungus Among Us”. Aparna Vidyasagar. 2021. livescience.com.
- “What Is Activated Charcoal Good For? Benefits And Uses”. 2021. Healthline.