I’ve decided to write this piece after a great question was imbedded into my head recently ,
So the question was what should you do if the unthinkable happens and you are directly involved in a mushroom poisoning either yourself or a person close to you ?
And it seemed that a answer of consult your doctor comes up miles short of being a responsible answer and it occurred to me that as a forager of wild mushrooms I have a responsibility to myself to be aware of information that could potentially save my life and as someone who actively promotes wild food I should share my thoughts .
You probably think that just ‘I’ve been poisoned by eating a mushroom ‘
Is enough information but it’s not that simple taking into account that actual poisoning from mushrooms is very rare and the chance of your doctor actually knowing how best to treat you is unlikely as poisoning from mushrooms can be very different depending on what mushroom you have eaten and the symptoms are vast .
I’ve been reading some pretty scary reports of mushroom poisonings and the ramifications of the one big mistake and noted that their must be a huge number of cases that never become labeled as mushroom related , as unless they end with death or indeed a disabling medical condition they pass as a illness of no lasting effect unfortunately this is also directly responsible for the lack of information we have regarding the effects of some of the less damaging toxins found in fungi .
I wonder how many of us even consider the mushrooms we eat as responsible for the odd iffy stomach luckily in the U.K death from mushroom poisoning is very rare indeed serious cases of poisoning are low whereas poisoning in countries where foraging for fungi is practiced on a higher scale seem more able to identify and treat cases of fungi poisoning for instance it is believed that if you ingest amatoxin from one of the deadly amanitas you have a fifty percent chance of survival living in the United Kingdom against the same poisoning in the United States of America you only have a ten percent chance of death and this is a direct result of experience through treatment , since I started foraging I’ve seen it grow in popularity but within the last few years it has massively increased and is becoming a normal acceptable pastime which in itself is great but with increases in the number of people practicing also holds a increase in the oppertunity for poisonings .
So we have all read the reports from badly researched reports our media twists and over dramatises the hazards of fungi foraging that circulate yearly with the onset of autumn those of us that have an understanding of wild food shudder at the poorly portrayed facts flitting backwards and forwards between that and the so called mushroom mafia stripping woodlands and although I struggle to understand the thought process I’m sure there is a reason behind it ! Isn’t there ? .
I’m no doctor so I’ve been trying to decide on a good way to approach this topic I have a basic understanding of the chemistry regarding the types of toxins found within fungi but in reflection listing symptoms for all of the types of toxins found within the kingdom of fungi is a complex and a massive undertaking that inevitably is best left for more expert minds my aim is to share some basic ideas that could make a world of difference .
Firstly let’s remember that no one will purposely eat a poisonous mushroom and not all cases of negative reactions are due to miss identifications sometimes reactions can be due to a individual persons metabolism as any forager will be aware some edible species that are listed as edible also hold the label of possibly causing gastric upset these include some
Of my favourite tasting mushrooms , Laetiporus sulphureus , The Chicken of the Woods , Clitocybe nuda , the wood blewit and the Clitocybe nebularis , the clouded agaric are just some of the edible mushrooms that are known to cause some severe reactions in some people and yet many people have no ill effect at all , and despite the well documented and easily gained warnings thousands of foragers have sat down to that first meal waiting with anticipation of quick dashes to the toilet and chronic intestinal cramping there simply is no way of knowing if you are going to react and this is a personal risk only you can weigh .
The serious poisonings from fungi are never premeditated and information surrounding the offending mushroom is key in any treatment and the quicker the doctor is able to correctly identify the toxin damage can be managed and limited .
So we have two hurdles to cross the first being recognising fungi poisoning from the vast amount of other types of illness that it could be so a simple solution to aid in any prognosis is simply to make your doctor aware that you are an active forager and request that they list it on your medical history this will flag if any potential problems arise from simple anaphylactic reactions to serious poisonings .
I am a forager and proud
The second piece of information is the actual mushroom itself and information surrounding it’s collection
Upon recognising a case the doctor will contact the poison control centre who will advise and offer expert aid in the guise of a mycologist who will try to identify the fungi , there are 14 different types of poisoning from fungi all of which require individual courses of treatment .
Some toxins take time to appear in the form of symptoms these can be delayed for weeks so your last meal may not even be the offender if like me you eat numerous types of wild fungi this can be complicated so a diary of sorts is a massive help I have a simple note book I list all of my finds with a location and the number of which picture they are on my camera and when I have eaten them it is a small effort really and as most people only eat a handful of species it is a easy task , the location is important as mentioned in my previous post chemical poisoning from seemingly edible mushrooms is a real danger .
In all cases of suspected poisoning it is imperative that you seek emergency medical help as soon as possible aggressive hydration and vitamin C intake is advised in any case and in cases of suspected Amanita poisoning silibinin has shown promise and reduces the risk of long term damage .
And the most important thing of all is to remember there is no shame in getting to the doctors , a mistake is a mistake better humbled and alive that stubborn and dead the quicker you can be treated the better the outcome .