Reports of poisoning up as mushroom season kicks off

Toadstools. Source: Jaanimägi

Plentiful rain in July has got the mushroom season going in Estonia, while this is also reflected in the Poison Information Center's hotline getting more calls. People increasingly use mobile apps to identify wild mushrooms, while it is not something mycologists recommend.

While mushrooms are increasingly adorning the forest floor in Estonia, enthusiasts should be cautious as not every mushroom is edible.

Kristina and Polina have made it a point of pride to know wild mushrooms in Estonia and first went out in search of them in spring. The girls say that mushrooms can be found everywhere now, while it may be relatively harder in Harju County. Only mushrooms they know well are picked.

"We pay careful attention and only pick the mushrooms we know. We go to the Natural History Museum's mushrooms exhibit every year to see whether there is something new, a mushroom we have perhaps stumbled across but did not know was edible," Kristina said.

Not everyone does their homework before taking to the woods however. The Poison Information Center receives four or five calls every day concerning the eating of mushrooms and its consequences.

Ruth Kastanje, consultant for poisoning cases, said that every case of intoxication caused by mushrooms in Estonia is treatable if the person gets help in time.

"The worst-case scenario is when a person consumes a liver-toxic mushroom – death cap, toadstool or funeral bell (Galerina marginata) – and starts feeling better before they decide to seek medical assistance, figures it may just pass if they rest for a few more days. That is the period during which serious liver damage is done," Kastanje explained.

There have been no fatal cases of intoxication from mushrooms in the last few years. Experts recommend sticking strictly with mushrooms one knows.

Comparing a mushroom to a photo of one is not always a foolproof solution. Mycologist Tõnu Ploompuu said that while people increasingly turn to AI solutions to try and identify mushrooms, this is not always successful.

"It identified a brown mushroom as the bitter bolete. And a rare Suillus sibiricus that I found was thought to be a milk cap. So, I would not count on AI to place mushrooms."

Those who have chanced upon the wrong kind of mushroom are encouraged to call the Poison Information Center's 16662 hotline.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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