It's mushroom season in Australia. It can also be a deadly time of year for emergency wards as inexperienced foragers and accidental consumers end up with mushroom poisoning, a condition that can range in severity from mild to discomfort to death. South Australian health authorities have issued a warning discouraging wild mushroom foraging as people spend time in the country over the Easter school holiday period. Food Safety Information Council spokesperson Lydia Buchtmann told ACM while autumn was a popular time for foraging, the advice was never to pick mushrooms. "There's no way you can tell the differences, the experts can't, you can't. And if you go out with one of these foraging groups who say they can, there's a real risk that that they can't, and you can get really sick. And there's no second chances really, with the lethal ones," she said. The NSW Poisons Information Centre receives 300-500 calls a year about mushrooms. In April 2022 a young child was hospitalised in the ACT after consuming a deathcap mushroom. And in 2012 two people died after eating deadly mushrooms at a New Year's Eve dinner party in Canberra. Chief scientist and director of conservation at the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens Brett Summerell told ACM that for inexperienced people, foraging is not worth the risk. "Really the most important piece of advice is if you don't know what species of mushrooms you're collecting, and you don't know the area, and you're not with an expert, the best thing to do is not to pick them, don't take any chances," he said. "Each year we do get lots of people that end up in the emergency wards of hospitals with a poisoning which can range from just feeling quite sick and nauseous all the way through into the worst cases where people actually die from ingesting the wrong type of mushrooms. So caution is really important in this sort of situation." Wild mushrooms spring up after wet weather. One of the most poisonous species of mushroom is the deathcap, or Amanita phalloides. The Food Safety Information Council warns that the poison in one deathcap mushroom, if eaten, is enough to kill a healthy adult. They are found in the Canberra region, in Victoria, in Tasmania and in South Australia. Most of the deaths from mushroom poisoning in Australia result from deathcap mushrooms. But other species also pose a threat. The classic red and white dotted mushroom cap, common in fairytales, is known as the Fly agaric species. If ingested, this mushroom will cause severe illness. Symptoms of poisoning by deathcap mushrooms can include violent stomach pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Even if symptoms subside serious liver damage may have occurred that may result in death, according to the Department of Health. Children are at a high risk of ingesting poisonous mushrooms due to eating mushrooms outside in gardens and fields when partially supervised. According to South Australian health authorities, around half of the calls made to the Poisons Information Centre in recent years relate to mushroom poisoning involving children under five. There were 56 cases involving children under five in 2022. The Food Safety Information Council advises parents, school and childcare workers to regularly check outdoor areas and gardens for mushrooms and remove them to reduce the risk of accidental poisoning as well as protecting pets. "It's a good time of year to go look in your yard, around your daycare center, at the local park, just to make sure that they're not around," Ms Buchtmann said. "Don't touch it with your hand, if you are going to pick them up, do it with a plastic bag and dispose of them in the garbage. If you put them in the compost or something they'll probably reproduce." IN OTHER WORDS: Professor Summerell said that if people were foraging, they should take the necessary precautions and ensure they have photographed the fungi they plan to ingest. "It's always quite useful in these situations where we get called up to identify what somebody's eaten, obviously by the time they've eaten it we can't identify them. But if they've got photos of the mushrooms, then at least we can say, yes, it's not this one. It's most likely this one," he said. "In the vast majority of cases, it's relatively easy to treat. And quite often, it's a wait and see game - people feel crook, feel really horrendous for a day or two." Knowing which type of mushroom has been eaten can assist hospital staff and toxicologists in treating a poisoning case. Health advice is available 24/7 on the national poisons information hotline 13 11 26.