The name “Death Cap Mushroom” is enough to make anyone stay away from it. Why would you want to be anywhere near something that has a name associated with death? You definitely don’t want to touch it, right?
One thing to remember is that while Death Cap Mushrooms are poisonous and dangerous, you don’t have anything to fear by just touching one. All of their toxins are inside their flesh, and they can’t be absorbed into your skin.
What is a Death Cap Mushroom?
A Death Cap Mushroom is considered to be one of the most poisonous mushrooms in nature. It has poisoned more people than any other type of mushroom combined. Although it is generally easy to recognize, hundreds of people are poisoned by them every year because of misidentification.
Death Caps are responsible for at least 90% of deaths that are mushroom related. This is because they are commonly mistaken for an edible mushroom. One single Death Cap Mushroom can kill a person if ingested.
Death Cap Mushrooms grow in the summer and fall in the forests of Europe, North Africa, and Asia. They have been accidentally relocated to Australia and North America where they are growing and spreading quickly.
You will mostly see Death Cap Mushrooms growing under oak trees, beech trees, and hornbeam trees. In some instances, you might also see them growing under a spruce tree or pine tree.
These mushrooms need to form a bond with a tree in order to grow. They can’t grow on their own. Trees will provide mushrooms with organic molecules that are produced during photosynthesis.
Why are Death Cap Mushrooms Poisonous?
Death Cap Mushrooms contain tons of different toxins, but the most prominent is amanitin. This toxin is so poisonous that the tiniest amount could kill 100,000 mice. This toxin is what causes the liver and kidneys to shut down.
There are more toxins in the Death Cap, but they aren’t responsible for people being poisoned. These other toxins are either not absorbed in the digestive system or they are killed during preparation with heat.
Patients who seek treatment for Death Cap ingestion will usually require a kidney or liver transplant, while in severe cases they might need both.
What Does a Death Cap Mushroom Look Like?
When Death Caps are just beginning to grow, they will have a cap that is the shape of a dome. As they grow and mature, the cap will start to flatten and crack.
A mature Death Cap Mushroom is usually between two and five inches wide and between four and six inches tall. The cap is usually an olive-green color with a very smooth rim. The gills are dense, white, and free of the stalk.
When Death Cap Mushrooms are young, they will usually be covered by a white veil and look similar to an egg. The spore print of this mushroom is white, and the spores are short.
You will also be able to identify a Death Cap Mushroom by their distinctive cup at the bottom of the stem that is under the ground and a “skirt” that sits just below the cap.
Who is Most at Risk for Danger?
Not everyone is going to have the same reaction to a Death Cap Mushroom. There are some people who are more at risk of danger from these mushrooms than others.
For example, a toddler is highly likely to touch a Death Cap Mushroom and potentially put it in their mouth. The toddler will be extremely vulnerable to poisoning from the mushroom because they ingested it.
Someone who is unfamiliar with a Death Cap Mushroom is also at high risk for danger. If a person isn’t sure what the mushroom looks like, they can ingest the mushroom and experience the negative side effects.
Side Effects of Death Cap Mushrooms
If you accidentally ingest a Death Cap Mushroom because you aren’t sure what it looks like, there are some serious side effects that you can experience. Symptoms will usually start to appear eight to twelve hours after the ingestion.
Side effects will usually start with upset stomach that can induce vomiting. This is said to occur frequently and can cause liver and kidney problems over the course of three days.
Can You Die from Touching a Death Cap?
Touching a Death Cap Mushroom will not poison you, so you can’t die. The toxins are only inside the flesh of the mushroom, so it won’t absorb into your skin.
This is extremely important to know if you are hunting for mushrooms because touching, turning, smelling, and studying them is part of learning about them. The good thing about Death Cap Mushrooms is you can study them and not worry about them causing any damage.
The spores of the Death Cap are extremely poisonous and toxic, but only if you consume them. Touching the spores will not be harmful to you.
If you want to explore the mushroom but you are still worried about touching it, you can always touch it with a pair of gloves on. This will allow you to complete your observation without any actual contact with the mushroom.
What if Someone Accidentally Ingesting a Death Cap?
The death rate of ingestion is about 50% if no treatment is given after the ingestion. With treatment, the death rate drops down to 13%. As new research occurs each year, the death rate decreases because treatment improves.
The survival rate typically depends on how much of the mushroom was ingested and how quickly a diagnosis is given after the ingestion. If you think you have ingested what could be a poisonous mushroom, you need to immediately call an ambulance.
The toxins of the Death Cap work incredibly fast. They start attacking the liver cells almost immediately after ingestion. The main causes of death after accidental ingestion are dehydration, kidney failure, and liver failure.
If no action is taken for treatment, one could die as soon as four days after the consumption of the mushroom.