Filabusi and Mberengwa have witnessed recent deaths of members from families that succumbed to mushroom poisoning. In all cases the mushrooms have either been purchased from roadside people or harvested personally by individuals with little or no knowledge of differentiating poisonous mushroom from edible ones.
Mushroom itself is the fruiting body of higher fungi which can be consumed. There are thousands of species of mushroom but only 100 species can cause symptoms when eaten and 15 to 20 mushroom species are potentially lethal when ingested, that is they can cause death.
Mushrooms, Poisonous or Edible?
The simple answer to this my fellow Zimbabweans is that you cannot tell the difference without identifying the individual mushroom you have found. Some poisonous mushrooms kill, so one must be 100% sure of what it is before consumption.
Myths about how to identify edible mushrooms
- It is ok if you can peel the cap. This is a lie, the Death Cap mushroom can be peeled, and is one of the most commonly mistaken species and potentially fatal.
- Mushrooms growing on wood are safe! This again is not true as the Funeral Bell grows on wood and is poisonous.
- If other animals are consuming it, then it is ok! This again is a myth. Animals and people are build differently, so what a wild animal through adaptation may endure, a human being may die from it.
Also called fungi poisoning. After ingesting a poisonous mushroom typically within 6 to 24 hours one may start to experience any of the following symptoms:
- Gastro-intestinal illness such as nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhoea
- Liver failure and death: The toxin or poison in the mistaken mushroom can fatally harm the liver and kidneys and death may result within 48 hours of consuming the mushroom.
Juvenile poisoning from mushroom is also another occurrence to always be on the watch out for especially for parents as toddlers while out playing in the grass may come across mushrooms and eat them.
What to do in a case of suspected mushroom poisoning
- Call or take the individual to the nearest medical facility. Time is always of essence.
- Make sure if possible that you take with you a sample or picture of the suspected mushroom consumed.
- If you suspect you may have eaten poisonous mushroom do not wait for symptoms to rush to your nearest clinic. Better safe than sorry
- Never give milk or any dairy product to a mushroom poisoning victim or any type of poisoning for that matter. Only administer clean water for drinking as much as possible while taking the person to the clinic
Never buy mushroom from the roadside or open markets. It is always recommended to buy packaged mushroom in official supermarkets that has undergone proper checks from trained individuals. It may be pricey as compared to the roadside ones but DO NOT TRADE YOUR LIFE TO SAFEGUARD YOUR WALLET.
Leave mushroom picking to trained knowledgeable people!
Article By Andrew Manjonjo
Andrew Manjonjo writes in his personal capacity as a Health Promotion Practitioner and Wellness Consultant