A public health warning has been issued about the potential dangers of wild mushrooms after a dozen reported poisonings in South Australia in the year to date.

Key points:

  • SA Health’s poisons hotline has received more than 300 mushroom-related calls in the past three years
  • About half relate to cases involving children aged under five
  • It said this year’s weather had created “ideal conditions” for fungi to flourish

The state’s health department is especially concerned about death cap mushrooms, which resemble edible types, but can be lethal if consumed.

It has advised parents to keep close watch on their children, and said the recent cool summer as well as forecast rain were creating “ideal growing conditions” for wild mushrooms in backyards and parks, and other settings including forests and along roadsides.

“Our strong advice is do not eat wild mushrooms — it’s not worth the risk,” SA Health physician Kate Murton said.

“Around half the calls made to the Poisons Information Centre in recent years relate to mushroom poisoning involving children under five.”

In South Australia there have been more than 330 mushroom-related calls to the centre since the start of 2020, including 12 calls so far in 2023 — three of which were referred to hospital.

Fungi expert Teresa Lebel said while mushrooms might appear “bright”, “colourful” and “fascinating”, consuming them can be deadly.

“There is no simple way to tell if a mushroom is safe to eat or not. Our strong advice is people should only eat mushrooms from a reliable supermarket or greengrocer,” Dr Lebel said.

SA Health released its warning ahead of the Easter holiday break, and strongly urged people not to east wild mushrooms.(Victorian Health Department)

SA Health said symptoms of poisoning — including severe stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea — can last up to three days, but their onset could take up to 24 hours.

It also warned pet owners about the risks to animals.

Dr Leber said anyone who came into contact with a wild mushroom “should take photos of the mushroom and the general location”.

“Also try to take one of the mushrooms with you, if possible, to help experts identify what species it is to determine the most appropriate treatment.”

Wild mushroom foraging underwent something of a boom during the coronavirus pandemic, with the number of calls to poison hotlines spiking.

SA Health timed its warning to coincide with the lead-up to the Easter break.

“If you suspect you or someone you know has eaten a wild mushroom, do not wait for symptoms to appear,” Dr Murton said.

“Contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for advice and always call triple zero (000) in an emergency.”