NSW hospitals record spike mushroom poisoning admissions

Home Health NSW hospitals record spike mushroom poisoning admissions
NSW hospitals record spike mushroom poisoning admissions

Experts have sent out an updated warning about mushroom foraging after hospitals across the state saw a spike in poisoning cases.

Medical experts have sent out an updated warning about mushroom foraging after hospitals across the state saw a spike in poisoning cases.

The NSW Poisons Information Centre reported it received 56 calls about mushroom exposures since the beginning of may, 37 of which relating to mushrooms which had been either been foraged or consumed for recreational purposes.

According to the centre, calls to the hotline have increased by about a quarter compared to 2021.

Genevieve Adamo, a senior specialist at the NSW Poisons Information Centre, said the admissions ranged from children who had eaten mushrooms in their backyard, to adults of all ages picking random fungis in the bush.

“The dampness provides excellent growing conditions for wild mushrooms, but it is often difficult to recognise edible from poisonous mushrooms,” Ms Adamo said.

“Mushrooms picked in the wild can make you very ill and could be lethal.”

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A surge in growth cause by the recent wet weather is expected to have played a role in the rise in toxic mushroom cases.

Ms Adamo warned it was difficult to identify safe mushrooms caught in the wild and urged against picking and eating fungi. Cooking or boiling mushrooms does not reduce their toxicity.

“There is no reliable way to identify mushrooms picked in the wild, so it’s best to completely avoid picking or eating wild mushrooms. It is simply not worth the risk,” Ms Adamo said.

Symptoms following mushroom poisoning can include diarrhoea, nausea, confusion and dizziness.

“Some of the effects can also be delayed. People can be completely well for several hours after the ingestion, so we really ask the public to call if they have eaten any wild mushroom, because even if they may be well at the time, very small amounts can cause serious damage,” Ms Adamo said.

Lydia Buchtmann, a spokesperson for the Food Safety Council, warned against using smartphone apps to identify Australian mushrooms as many differ from European variants and in some cases look vastly different at various stages of their lifespan.

“Generally, in Australia, a large number of these fungi haven’t been identified,” she said.

“You sit down with the experts, and even they can’t even tell the difference sometimes. The safest thing to do is to buy from the shops.”

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