In reality, there are no simple guidelines to identify poisonous mushrooms. The only foolproof rule for preventing mushroom poisoning is to stay away. Even very experienced wild mushroom gatherers are sometimes poisoned, despite being well aware of the risks.
Mushrooms are poisonous if eaten, but they are not poisonous to touch.
Prevention is the best defense against mushroom poisoning. Most calls received at the center are from parents whose young children have sampled a wild mushroom right out of the yard. Parents must teach their children never to eat a mushroom unless it is purchased at the grocery store. Many children will develop nausea and vomiting within six hours after eating a mushroom. Other early symptoms include stomach cramps and watery or bloody diarrhea. It takes longer for symptoms to develop with some of the most poisonous mushrooms. These poisonings can cause liver and/or kidney problems. The same type of mushrooms may not grow together, so you can’t assume because the child gets sick early that there wasn’t a more deadly mushroom in the group as well. There is no antidote available for mushroom poisoning. Good medical care is essential to counteract these mushroom ingestions.
If you suspect that someone has eaten a poisonous mushroom, call the Oklahoma Poison Control Center or your physician right away. Don’t wait for symptoms to occur; the victim may need to be taken to an emergency room for observation and treatment. Collect the remainder of any mushrooms that have been eaten, including the base, which may still be buried in the ground. If there is more than one variety at the location, collect a sample of each. Place the mushroom in a paper bag, basket or open container. The samples should be kept cool, but do not freeze them. Do not use plastic containers or plastic bags, which cause mushrooms to spoil. Take the mushrooms with you to the emergency room. If the victim has vomited, collect the vomited material to assist in proper identification. Quick reaction to any wild mushroom ingestion is the key to successful management of mushroom poisoning.
You may contact the Oklahoma Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222. The poison center is staffed 24 hours a day by specially trained pharmacists and registered nurses. The Oklahoma Poison Control Center is a program of the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy at the OU Health Sciences Center.