A warning has been put out in South Australia by the state's health department for people to not pick and eat wild mushrooms, particularly with early reports of poisonous varieties being spotted.
The reminder comes as calls to a poisons hotline have spiked, and people's backyards are of concern.
SA Department for Health and Wellbeing's Scientific Services Branch Director, Dr David Simon, said while some wild mushrooms might look tempting and perfectly safe, ingesting them can cause serious illness or even death.
"The risks are high for people foraging in the bush, but the danger doesn't stop at your front gate, and mushrooms that pop up in lawns and garden beds enriched with mulch, compost and straw can be just as unsafe," he said.
"This year the mushroom season started quite early and death cap mushrooms have been spotted since early January."
Dr Simon said symptoms of mushroom poisoning include violent stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, which can take several hours to appear and last up to three days. Also, poisoning from several varieties including the death-cap mushroom can have delayed onset of symptoms - up to 24 hours - and cause life-threatening liver damage.
Senior Botanist-Mycologist for the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium of South Australia, Dr Teresa Lebel, said recent rains have triggered fruiting of several garden and mulch growing varieties, typical at the beginning of the wetter seasons.
She said a major problem is that species such as the death cap can be easily mistaken for the Stubble Rosegill Volvopluteus gloiocephalus, since the latter species is very similar to the Paddy Straw Mushroom Volvariella volvacea, a delicacy in Asian cuisine.
She said there is no simple way to tell if a mushroom is safe to eat or not, and even experts can have difficulty identifying certain species from each other.
"Even if a mushroom looks exactly like one you would pick up off a supermarket shelf or like other edible mushrooms people are familiar with from overseas, the best advice is not to eat them." Dr Lebel said.
"In addition to the death cap, there are other wild mushrooms in Australian gardens, parks and bushland that have caused fatalities or can make you seriously ill, including species of Cortinarius, Galerina, and Lepiota, sometimes mistaken for field mushrooms or other non-toxic species. Or the ghost mushroom which is commonly mistaken for oyster mushrooms."
She also warned for people to be mindful of children and pets outside, as mushrooms are easily in reach and can look interesting and attractive to eat.
A total of 24 calls - 19 of which involved children aged under 5 - were made to the Poisons Information Centre from January to April. A total of nine people were referred to hospital, and three of those cases were aged under 5.
In 2021, there were a total of 109 calls made, 27 of which resulted in referrals to a hospital. Of the calls made, 45 involved children aged under five, and eight of them were referred to hospital.
If you suspect you or someone you know has eaten a wild mushroom, do not wait for symptoms to appear.
Contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for advice and always call triple zero (000) in an emergency. If you suspect your pet has eaten wild mushrooms, seek veterinary attention immediately.
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