“Super Mario” Mushrooms Cause Spate of Recent Poisonings

(NationalUSNews.com) — After years of drought, Californians have had a large uptick in the rain that has led to glorious super blooms of their brilliant orange state flower, the California poppy. It has also led to increased growth of native mushrooms, including the red and white amanita muscaria, also known as the Fly Agaric or Death Cap mushroom. The poisonous mushrooms are known for their distinctive red tops with white spots, which make them look just like mushrooms in popular media like cartoons, or Super Mario video games.

While accidental consumption of poisonous mushrooms accounts for roughly 1,400 emergency room visits a year, the North American Mycological Association says there have been “no reliably documented cases” of death from Fly Agaric mushrooms in the past 100 years. Symptoms usually appear within an hour of consumption, reach their peak at 3 hours, and can last for 24 hours. These mushrooms contain several different toxic or psychoactive compounds which can vary in concentration so some may be more toxic than others of the same type. They are generally more dangerous to children, the elderly, people with chronic health conditions, and pets.

Kendra Yee, an emergency physician at Barton Health in South Lake Tahoe, says they have seen a spate of patients in their emergency department who have ingested the Fly Agaric mushrooms. All of the cases were children. While these were clearly cases where the people eating them did not know they were toxic, there are also people who eat them deliberately seeking hallucinogenic effects from the psychoactive alkaloids, or people who are interested in mushroom foraging identifying them incorrectly. Other symptoms may include abdominal distress, diarrhea, vomiting, and headaches.

Patricia Kaishian, a curator of mycology at the New York State Museum, says that it could take many years of study to learn enough about mycology, which is the study of fungi, to “learn enough to safely consume wild mushrooms”. She does not recommend that anyone consume wild mushrooms without first consulting an expert to be sure they are safe. This may be helpful for some, but for children and pets who are just curious and attracted to the bright attractive colors, it is important that adults be aware of the dangerous vegetation in their area and keep an eye out for them.

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