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Mushroom poisoning: symptoms, first aid

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 285 views

Mushroom poisoning results from eating poisonous or spoiled mushrooms. In more harmless cases, it causes symptoms such as stomach pain and nausea. In the worst case, mushroom poisoning can also be fatal. That’s why it’s all the more important to know how to recognize mushroom poisoning and how to properly administer first aid in such an emergency.

ICD codes for this disease:

ICD codes are internationally valid codes for medical diagnoses. They can be found, for example, in doctor’s letters or on certificates of incapacity for work.


quick overview

  • Mushroom poisoning symptoms: depending on the type and amount of the poison, e.g. diarrhea with vomiting, abdominal pain, circulatory problems, hallucinations , sweating, etc.
  • What to do in the event of mushroom poisoning : call poison control or emergency services, calm the victim down, pick up mushrooms or vomit and hand them over to the doctor or paramedics (for diagnostic purposes)
  • When to the doctor? If you suspect mushroom poisoning, always call a doctor or the poison control center. Without treatment, there may be permanent organ damage or even death.


  • Mushrooms that start showing symptoms within around two hours of ingestion are usually considered less dangerous than those that start showing symptoms after six hours or more.
  • If several people have eaten the mushroom dish, but only one has symptoms, the following still applies: everyone should have a doctor examine them as a precaution!
  • Small children, the very old and the sick should eat little, if any, mushrooms. Eating spoiled or poisonous mushrooms can be more dangerous for them than for healthy adults.

Mushroom poisoning: how to recognize?

The symptoms of mushroom poisoning depend on the type of mushroom and the amount consumed. Possible are for example:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea (possibly bloody)
  • stomach pain
  • headache and body aches
  • dizziness
  • drop in blood pressure
  • sweats
  • accelerated pulse
  • feeling hot
  • increased tearing and salivation
  • Visual disturbances, narrow or dilated pupils
  • muscle twitching
  • seizures
  • hallucinations
  • Disorders of consciousness such as drowsiness, confusion, agitation, loss of consciousness

Such symptoms can also have many other causes. Recognizing mushroom poisoning is therefore not always easy for laypeople – especially not if it is unclear whether and which mushrooms were eaten at all, or if the mushroom meal was a while ago. Because depending on the type and amount of poison ingested, the symptoms of mushroom poisoning can appear at different speeds – in some cases within 30 minutes, in others only after several hours.

Fake mushroom poisoning

Edible (i.e. non-toxic) mushrooms can also cause symptoms after consumption that are similar to those of mushroom poisoning – namely when the mushroom triggers an intolerance reaction in the person concerned. Doctors call this fake mushroom poisoning. It is accompanied by abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. If raw edible mushrooms, which contain so-called haemolysins, have been eaten, bloody stools and kidney pain can occur. Hemolysins break down red blood cells.

It is difficult for laypeople to recognize real mushroom poisoning or to distinguish it from a fake one.

Mushroom Poisoning: First Aid

If health problems suddenly occur after consumption, there is always a suspicion of mushroom poisoning – even if the symptoms only appear a few hours later. In such cases, you should take the following first aid measures:

  • Seek medical help immediately! Depending on your assessment of the situation, you should contact a doctor or call emergency services, call poison control, or take the patient to the hospital.
  • Ensure mushrooms and possibly vomit! The analysis of fungus residues (from the meal or from cleaning the mushrooms) and/or vomit helps to identify the cause of the symptoms and then to initiate the right therapy.
  • Fast but calm! React quickly, but remain calm – in many cases, mushroom poisoning can be treated in good time. Try to calm the patient down as well.

What you should never do:

  • Stay away from milk! Drinking milk is not a good home remedy for mushroom poisoning, on the contrary – it can even promote the absorption of the poison.
  • No charcoal tablets! Do not give the patient charcoal tablets for diarrhea. This could have serious disadvantages and worsen the prognosis.
  • Do not induce vomiting! Do not “stick finger down throat” or give salt water to induce vomiting to force vomiting, especially children and the elderly (potentially fatal). If necessary, the doctor, under expert supervision, will make the patient vomit (with a special emetic syrup after copious amounts of liquid).

Poison Control Center – you need to know that

You should have the following information ready when calling a poison control center so that quick and competent help is possible:

  • Who is calling (caller’s name and phone number)?
  • Who is affected (name and age of the patient and, in the case of children, weight and height)?
  • Does the person affected have any underlying diseases (e.g. heart disease, diabetes)?
  • What exactly did you eat?
  • Where did the mushrooms eaten come from (bought or collected)?
  • How much of it was eaten?
  • When were the mushrooms eaten?
  • What complaints does the patient have?
  • Who else ate the same dish?
  • Are there any leftovers from the mushrooms or the mushroom dish?

The right contact point for a poison control center is the European emergency number 112.

Information on poisons and symptoms of poisoning is available from the country-specific poison control numbers.

Poison control center Germany: e.g. B. Berlin poison control center: 030 19240

Mushroom Poisoning: When to See a Doctor?

Regardless of whether it is genuine mushroom poisoning or not: If you feel unwell after eating a mushroom meal, you should always call a doctor or the emergency services immediately, seek help from a poison information center or drive straight to the hospital – don’t wait that or if the symptoms get worse! There may be a risk of permanent organ damage or even death.

Mushroom poisoning: examinations at the doctor

If mushroom poisoning is suspected, the doctor will ask the patient or – if the patient is unresponsive – you as the first responder about the circumstances. It is important, for example, which mushrooms and how much of them the patient ate, when he ate them, where the mushrooms came from (bought or collected himself), how they were prepared, whether the patient also drank alcohol, is taking medication and any allergies or other underlying diseases.

In addition, the doctor will want to know how much time elapsed between the mushroom meal and the onset of symptoms, and the order in which the various symptoms appeared. This can provide clues as to what type of poisonous mushroom was eaten.

The laboratory analysis of any mushroom remains or vomit you may have brought with you can also clarify the exact cause of the poisoning. A blood test also helps to correctly identify the poison ingested. Blood and urine values ​​can also indicate possible organ damage (e.g. the kidneys).

Additional measures may be useful, for example an ultrasound examination of the abdomen to examine the liver and kidneys.

Mushroom poisoning: treatment by the doctor

How the doctor treats mushroom poisoning depends on the individual case. Above all, the type of mushrooms consumed and the type and severity of the symptoms that occur play a decisive role.

Some patients are made to vomit under medical supervision. The administration of medicinal charcoal (activated charcoal) can also be useful: it binds the fungal toxin and is passed along with it through the intestine .

For some fungal toxins there are special antidotes that the doctor can administer in such cases. For example, in the case of mushroom poisoning with muscarine (e.g. in cracked mushrooms), atropine is used as an antidote (the poison of deadly nightshade) is administered as an antidote.

If the fungal toxin has damaged the kidneys, the patient may need blood washing ( hemodialysis ) (temporarily or permanently). Kidney failure, like liver failure , may require an organ transplant.

Mushroom Poisoning: Course & Prognosis

In many cases of mushroom poisoning, the course is comparatively harmless. As soon as the stomach and intestines have rid themselves of the fateful meal, most of those affected have survived.

Diarrhea and vomiting from mushroom poisoning can last from hours to a few days, depending on the type and dose of the mushroom.

However, mushroom poisoning can also be serious and even fatal, for example with the very poisonous death cap mushroom: If the acute symptoms of poisoning (diarrhea, vomiting) have subsided after a few days, it is not over for some patients: As a result of the poisoning, they fail liver and/or kidneys. Liver failure is characterized by yellowing of the skin and conjunctiva (jaundice). Kidney failure, on the other hand, means that little or no urine is excreted. About half of the affected patients die within five to eight days. Overall, death caps are responsible for 95 percent of all deaths from mushroom poisoning.

In addition to death cap mushrooms, other toadstools can also damage the liver and kidneys and, in severe cases, lead to death.

Prevent mushroom poisoning

The most important rules to prevent poisoning and intolerance reactions caused by mushrooms are:

  • When picking mushrooms, only take those you know with absolute certainty.
  • If you are unsure, ask an expert – but please no self-proclaimed “connoisseur”, but only a certified mushroom expert. In the mushroom season from August to October, many clubs, pharmacies and independent organizations offer such mushroom advice.
  • According to experts, it is not advisable to use the Internet or special apps to identify fungi.
  • Do not collect and store mushrooms in plastic bags as they will spoil even faster than they already do. An airy basket or a fabric bag are more suitable.
  • Store mushrooms in a cool, airy place or in the refrigerator, but no longer than a day or two. It is even better if you always prepare and eat mushrooms as fresh as possible.
  • When preparing mushrooms, cut away any damaged or rotten areas generously. Mushrooms that are mouldy, noticeably soft, pitted, darkly discolored or slimy should not be used at all.
  • Heat mushrooms sufficiently – many are poisonous raw or trigger more or less severe intolerance reactions. Insufficiently heated mushrooms can also cause gastrointestinal problems. So always cook for at least 15 minutes.
  • Don’t eat too much of a mushroom dish – mushrooms are generally difficult to digest, so eating large amounts often causes digestive problems.
  • Do not drink alcohol with the mushroom meal or afterwards – this can also lead to gastrointestinal problems.
  • If the leftovers from a mushroom meal have been cooled down quickly (e.g. in an ice water bath) and then stored in the refrigerator (at 2-4 degrees), you can reheat them. Before eating, heat them to at least 70 degrees Celsius.

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