BACKGROUND: Picking wild mushrooms is a popular pastime in Switzerland. Correct identification of the species is difficult for laypersons. Ingestion of toxic mushrooms may result in serious toxicity, including death. The aim of the study is to analyze and describe the circumstances of exposure to mushrooms, and to define the clinical relevance of mushroom poisoning for humans in Central Europe.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: We performed a retrospective case study and analyzed all inquiries concerning human exposures to mushrooms (n = 5638, 1.2% of all inquiries) which were reported to the Swiss Toxicological Information Centre between January 1995 and December 2009.
RESULTS: The most frequent reason for contacting the poison center in cases of adult exposure was toxicity resulting from edible species. Pediatric exposure predominantly occurred from mushrooms found around the home. Severe symptoms have not only been observed after ingestion of non-amatoxin-containing toxic mushrooms, i.e. Boletus sp. and Cortinarius sp., but also after meals of edible species. The mortality of confirmed amatoxin poisonings was high (5/32) compared to other reports.
CONCLUSIONS: Inquiries regarding mushroom poisoning were a relatively infrequent reason for contacting the poison center. Nevertheless, accidental ingestion of toxic mushrooms can be responsible for severe or fatal poisonings. Although pediatric exposure to mushrooms found around the home has not led to serious toxicity in this study, prevention of exposure is warranted. Inspection of wild mushrooms by a certified mushroom expert or a mycologist seems to be a safe procedure which should be recommended.