Exposure to Wild Mushrooms Can Lead to Serious Illness and Death, but Timely Decontamination Therapy May Prevent Health Issues

Oct 12, 2011, 10:22 ET from Public Health Reports

As mushroom populations rise, a study in Public Health Reports gives new insight and advice on treating mushroom exposure, especially in children.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The recent explosion in mushroom growth can cause an increase in exposure to mushrooms and may have severe consequences, especially for children and young adults. A study featured in the November/December 2011 edition of Public Health Reports shows that timely gastrointestinal decontamination therapy could mitigate clinical effects of mushroom exposure, like abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. The researchers found mushroom exposures and poisonings occur most often in males, children, and young adults.

"We hope that these results will serve to educate healthcare providers and parents of young children about the greater risk of mushroom exposures during rainy seasons," said lead author Dr. Kristina Kintziger. "The release of these findings corresponds well with the recent weather patterns resulting in higher than average rainfall in certain regions of the country."

Dr. Kintziger and her team examined mushroom poisoning (mycetismus) in Florida over a five-year period and the effects of ingesting many different toxic substances found in mushrooms in a population-based study titled "Wild Mushroom Exposures in Florida, 2003-2007," which will be published in the upcoming issue of Public Health Reports.  

Of the 5,000 species of mushrooms, about 100 are known to be poisonous to humans, and fewer than 10 are considered deadly. Dr. Kintziger's study focused on reported mushroom exposures/poisonings in Florida from January 1, 2003, through December 31, 2007. The Florida Poison Information Center Network (FPICN) and Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) provided poisoning data related to mushroom ingestions from hospital inpatient and emergency department visits. In their analysis, researchers excluded any calls that were determined not to be true mushroom exposures based on information received during the call and the technical experience of the specialists in poison information.

Unintentional exposures to mushrooms were most common among children 6 years of age and younger. The most common symptoms reported were tachycardia, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, hallucinations/delusions, hypertension, and diaphoresis. Mushrooms were the only substances involved in 95 percent of these records.

When researchers examined the types of medical care received by different high-risk groups they found that children 6 years of age and younger accounted for almost 30% of cases that were exposed to mushrooms and reported to FPICN, yet did not experience clinical effects (e.g., nausea or vomiting). Seventy-three percent of children reportedly received some form of decontamination therapy – such as ipecac, charcoal, dilution/irrigate/wash, or a snack – and the timely use of such therapies may have contributed to the large percentage of cases with no clinical effects. However, it is important to note that the definition of "appropriate gastrointestinal therapies" has changed recently.

While ipecac may have been used in the past, "it is no longer being recommended," reports Dr. Jay Schauben, director of the Florida Poison Information Center in Jacksonville. All three Florida Poison Information Center directors involved in this study advise that the poison centers should be consulted to determine the most appropriate management for these exposures.

Other findings in this study include:

  • Majority of exposure reports occurred among males (65%), children less than 6 years of age (41%), and 16- to 25-year-olds (33%).
  • Average annual incidence differed by age, with the highest rates among children less than 6 years of age (8.3 per 100,000 population) and those aged 16–25 years (4.4 per 100,000 population).
  • Among calls placed to FPICN, the majority of exposures were labeled as unintentional (60%), 36% were coded as intentional (e.g., drug misuse/abuse or suspected suicide), and 4% were coded as other/unknown.
  • Mushroom poisonings were more common among males in all age groups except children 6 years of age and younger, and were more common among those of white race/ethnicity.
  • Young adults (aged 16–25 years) had the highest proportion (81%) of intentional exposures.
  • Median total hospital charges increased with age, from $754 for those less than 6 years of age to $5,230 for those 26 years of age and older.

Researchers encourage the creation and dissemination of education materials related to the effects of wild mushrooms that are designed for parents of young children. They also support eliminating mushrooms in child play areas and limiting the time children remain unobserved in areas conducive to mushroom growth.

To access the study, visit www.publichealthreports.org.

The authors of this study are Kristina W. Kintziger, Ph.D., MPH; Prakash Mulay, MBBS, MPH; Sharon Watkins, Ph.D.; Jay Schauben, PharmD; Richard Weisman, PharmD; Cynthia Lewis-Younger, MD, MPH; and Carina Blackmore, DVM, Ph.D.

Public Health Reports has been published since 1878 and is the official journal of the U.S. Public Health Service. Since 1999, PHR has been published by the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH).  It is a peer-reviewed journal published on a bi-monthly basis. The six regular issues produced annually offer articles in three main areas: public health practice, research, and viewpoints/commentaries.

SOURCE Public Health Reports