More rain, more mushrooms, more calls to Upstate NY Poison Center

Calls involving children have already surpassed last year's numbers

SYRACUSE (WSYR-TV) - Jean Fahey is president of the Central New York Mycological Society. That means she hunts mushrooms for fun and has had plenty of success with all the recent rain.

"Anything with white gills, especially something that has got a little boot at the bottom or a little skirt, we do not want to use this for dinner. This is a very serious mushroom though if a child got ahold of it or if a dog ate it," she says, pointing at a mushroom in the amanita family.

A wet summer - invites more mushrooms and more work at the Upstate New York Poison Center.

"Whenever it rains, to be honest, the staff will always say 'okay it really rained hard yesterday, we're going to get a whole bunch of mushroom calls today,"' explains Michele Caliva, the center's administrative director.

This year, numbers have jumped. As of August 15, Caliva's office has handled 124 mushroom related calls, 96 involving children. That's already more calls than they had all of last year, 95 involving children.

"Based on the situation, the amount that was eaten, the time, the symptoms...we will help make the decision if it's fine, they should stay home or they can go into the hospital," Caliva says.

The other big concern? Pets.

The doctors at Stack Veterinary Hospital say they could go years without treating a dog that has consumed toxic mushrooms. But this year, they suspect mushrooms were involved in at least one serious case.

"IV fluids, special plasmas, special medications to support the liver and kidneys, long-term hospitalization...quite expensive for the owner, but their dog did survive," says Dr. Jan MacDonald.

It's hard to determine if mushrooms are the cause of illness since dogs often run free and owners may not realize what happened.

"The signs can be acute, severe vomiting on the pet's part, bloody diarrhea, collapse, shock, even they can go into liver failure, but the liver failure may occur a day to three days later. Death from mushroom toxicity generally occurs within three to seven days," adds Dr. MacDonald. "We can't save some of these dogs once they go into liver or kidney failure."

Tests can help doctors determine if there has been any exposure to poisonous or toxic mushrooms.

Fahey says samples should be refrigerated in paper bags because mushrooms will decay more quickly when wrapped in plastic.

She also wants parents and pet owners to know, "We're going to see a lot more mushrooms. We are just hitting our stride. The fall is our biggest time."

The Upstate New York Poison Center can be reached at 1-800-222-1222.

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