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Death by mushrooms

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Campers drinking heavily make mistakes

By Kirsten Peters

It’s a classic plot device of murder mysteries: an evil killer slips poisonous mushrooms into the frying pan of an unsuspecting victim who dies an agonizing death.
But in real life, poisonous fungi typically sicken and occasionally kill people for quite different reasons.
Recently I learned a lot about what can go wrong in the world of mushrooms from Dr. Denis Benjamin, a medical doctor who is also a fungi and poison expert.
As the weather improves over so much of the nation, this seems like a good time to review how you can avoid having yourself or members of your family join the ranks of those who eat the wrong mushrooms.
Very young children (think toddlers) and dogs are two groups that manage to poison themselves each year. What three-year olds and Fido have in common is that they are natural omnivores, moving around and putting most everything they find into their mouths.
Often they have the sense to spit out odd-tasting objects with unfamiliar textures, but not always. Luckily, most mushrooms that grow in places like your backyard are not highly toxic, so a large majority of both toddlers and canines survive their experiments with fungi.
But parents and dog owners sometimes get quite the scare when they see the objects of their love chewing blobs of fungal material.


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