Mushroom Safety Advice
Mushrooms can grow almost anywhere if the growing conditions are right. If you look close enough you will find mushrooms of different shapes, sizes and colours growing in lawns, on trees, rotten wood, and other damp surfaces. You will find them in towns, countryside, fields, woods, forests, garden lawns, graveyards, road sides and many other places. Mushrooms like warm, wet conditions for growing and will often appear overnight after it has rained. In Ireland, the mushroom growing season is usually from spring-time until the frosty weather arrives in the late autumn.
There are approximately 30 mushroom species in Ireland that are considered to be poisonous. If eaten, these can cause a range of symptoms from tummy upset to more serious, life-threatening symptoms. Many mushroom species can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhoea; some may also cause dehydration, hallucinations, blood pressure changes, sweating, dizziness, headache, flushing (when your face may become red and hot) and drowsiness. A small number of mushroom species are considered to be highly poisonous if eaten, and even one mushroom could have severe life-threatening effects on the kidneys, liver, and other vital organs for children and adults. Some mushrooms can interact with alcohol and cause effects up to 48-hours after alcohol has been taken. There is also a risk of side effects if mushrooms are contaminated with bacteria or if chemicals have been used on lawns.
The Poisons Centre is often asked for advice when (1) children find a mushroom, pick it, and eat it or (2) when adults collect wild mushrooms for food and mistake poisonous species for safe, edible ones.
Collecting mushrooms for food is becoming a popular hobby but it is essential to be able to tell the difference between mushrooms that are safe to eat (edible) and poisonous mushrooms that can cause harm. It is easy to confuse some toxic or poisonous mushrooms with similar looking edible ones. Accidental poisoning can easily occur if you are not trained and experienced in mushroom identification. It is important to stress that it is easy to make a mistake and if this happens there could be serious side effects. Do not collect and eat wild mushrooms unless you’re trained and experienced in mushroom identification. If you have any doubt, do not eat it. It is important to be safe, be sure, and be cautious.
Do not rely on the internet, mushroom guide books or plant or mushroom identification apps on your mobile phone to identify a mushroom, because these are not 100% accurate.
If you think someone has eaten a wild mushroom, call the Poisons Information Centre on 01 809 2166 for urgent advice. Symptoms can be delayed, so it is important to call the Poisons Centre straight away. Staff at the Poisons Centre will ask you some questions about the mushroom, what happened, and if there are any symptoms. In some cases, the Poisons Centre staff will work with mushroom experts (called mycologists) to help identify the mushroom species, if samples or good photographs of the mushrooms are available.
Remember this wise saying “There are old mushroom hunters and there are bold mushroom hunters. But there are no old, bold mushroom hunters”
Tips for mushrooms safety
- Teach children to always ask an adult if something is safe to eat or touch.
- Supervise children carefully to prevent accidental poisoning. Check your garden and lawn for mushrooms especially after it has rained during the spring, summer, and autumn. Pick any mushrooms that you find growing and throw them away safely.
- If you have even the smallest doubt about the identity of a wild mushroom, do not eat it.
- Never trust myths or old wives tales that say (1) poisonous mushrooms taste bad (2) poisonous mushroom are made safe if you cook them (3) and poisonous mushrooms are safe for humans because animals eat them. These statements are all untrue.
- Always seek medical advice urgently if you or someone you know is ill after eating wild mushrooms.
Contacting the National Poisons Information Centre
Healthcare Professional Line: 01 809 2566 (24hr)
Public Poisons Line: 01 809 2166 (8am-10pm)