Avoid Raw Shiitake Mushrooms!

Raw Shiitake mushroom slices were on our evening salad after shopping at our local Dillons/Kroger store on Monday, March 18. We continued using them in our salads. Wednesday early morning I noticed a red line under and across my husband’s tummy above the groin. It was itchy. It was very bright red with a very tiny, almost invisible red rash. We wondered what was causing it.

He began using 2% Hydrocortisone cream to reduce the itching. For sleep he took his usual 4 mg. generic Chlor-trimeton but could not control scratching at night.

His skin was very hot and became red almost all over. His voice sounded like he was gargling while speaking and hard for my poor hearing to understand.

I checked for allergies to any medications he had been taking and learned that Eliquis can cause a skin rash but it had been without problems for several months.

When applying the hydrocortisone to his abdomen I notices a large bulge on his right side under his ribs extending to below his umbilicus about the size of two fists.

On Thursday with the rash getting worse, it occurred to me that our shiitake mushrooms were the only thing new and different in our routine and checked online about them.

He developed a cough and sometimes breathed loudly.

Sure enough, by then the characteristic long red straight scratch mark lines shown in pictures online had begun to appear on his back, abdomen and legs. Some were as long as 12 to 18 inches and very straight.  (My pictures 7 days after initial exposure don’t give justice to those long red lines.)

For days the rash created a fiery sensation about four hours after each application of two or 2 1/2% hydrocortisone cream or ointment. The temptation to scratch was irresistible day and night.

Online resources suggested taking vitamin C 1000 mg. twice a day to help reduce the spread of the rash. I chose Simple Truth’s time release1000 mg. preparation with rosehips. It seemed to help reduce the rash.

My husband had experienced shingles two or three years before and wondered if they had come back. But the rash did not have the characteristics half belt across the back…yet!

Online sources say that high doses of corticosteroids including hydrocortisone can reactivate shingles even without a rash.  And the rash had appeared to be getting better, then got worse. Initially it was a smooth pinpoint red rash, Then I think on Friday it appeared to be 1/4 inch irregular shaped slightly raised lesions in close proximity and in large masses across the lower abdomen and upper thighs.

Our brat and sauerkraut supper (Thursday?) upset his stomach and his appetite dwindled.

On Friday he used a Fleets saline enema unsuccessfully to relieve constipation. A couple hours later he used a bagful of tap water with better success. He slept better that night.

I think on Saturday, a 4 inch band appeared near the spine spreading across the waist area in back and around his right side with a more ruddy color of red.

Saturday he slept most of the morning and felt like he was somewhat better. However, he skipped lunch and had little fluid to offset the constant feverish skin temperature. He wasn’t hungry at noon and slept again.

He wanted to watch KU in the NCAA tournament and so at 8 PM he tried to get up and slid to the floor. He failed several attempts to right himself and get up. Somehow while I went to get him a drink of water he managed to get back into bed but could not sit up by himself.

My Internal voice was saying call 911.

He drank that glass and attempted to get up again and ended up again on the floor. While I went for another glass of water he somehow managed to get back into bed. His breathing was extremely deep from the effort. No swelling of hands or feet.

I knew from online research that the usual skin tests are negative for shiitake mushroom poisoning and while he needed fluids, he did not really need an IV since he could easily drink from a large straw. Neither did he need a hospital acquired infection.

I made a favorite mint ice cream and soda water drink followed by a high protein whey and milk drink which he took with a high vitamin B complex pill and a high dose vitamin C pill. I asked him (a retired OB-GYN doctor) if he would go to the emergency room and he said “No, they wouldn’t (or couldn’t) do anything.” My old phone book number for his doctor was not in operation.

My prayer was, “Father, we need your help here. Father we need your help here.”

After swathing his lesion areas with 2 1/2% hydrocortisone I slept through most of the night. He intermittently scratched and slept.

Sunday at breakfast to my amazement, he was up with the aid of his favorite walking stick giving me directions for his class in Christian education at church. At noon he ate almost all the rice and all the Mongolian beef Chinese dinner I brought home. We again applied the hydrocortisone.

On Monday I went to the local Vita Villa health store to see what they might have for itchy rash. Since the area to treat is nearly the whole body, the suggestion was an 8 ounce tube of Derma-E, a doctor developed therapeutic product containing tea tree oil, chamomile, vitamin E, vitamin A, a precursor to vitamin B5 and a variety of other plant-based oils and items including glycerin. This product was soothing and replaced some of the hydrocortisone that otherwise would have been used.

Monday, slight swelling of his hands appeared, which was better when he took the Vitamin C.

He had called his doctor’s office on Monday and got a call back Tuesday afternoon with an appointment for Thursday morning.

The rash was much subdued Tuesday evening. He only asked for the Derma-E rub. However, during the night he applied 2 1/2% hydrocortisone again to relieve the itching.

Wednesday, the swelling in hands was less, but some in the feet, and Wednesday evening, the right foot was swollen more, while the left was about the same. He has felt much better and prepared our supper again as usual after spending quite a bit of time sitting in a straight chair reading.

Our doctor checked for and ruled out Measles.

The allergy to shiitake mushrooms has been known in Japan for many years. It affects about 2% of the population. It occurs when the mushroom is eaten raw or is partially cooked. When cooked it is said to deactivate the offending compound in the mushroom.

Please advise all your friends not to eat raw shiitake mushrooms. And ask your local supplier to require a sticker on the package indicating it is best when cooked to avoid any possibility of an allergic reaction which can be extremely uncomfortable and last as long as three weeks.

In extreme cases it can cause anaphylacticshock  and even death.

If the allergy occurs, use the lowest effective dose of hydrocortisone and try to alternate it with other options such as baking soda paste, anti-histamine cream, and cold compresses. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids.

Healthline.com suggests the following to help prevent shingles: vitamin A, B12, C, E and lysine.  They give a long list of foods to include and suggest avoiding the following: foods with high amounts of sugar, refined carbs, foods high in saturated fat, and foods high in arginine which includes chocolate, gelatin and nuts. Arginine can actually cause the virus to reproduce. They provide a list of supplements that can be helpful. Melatonin is especially helpful to get restful sleep.

My doctor recommends Dove soap for sensitive skin.

Update on April 27, 2019:  My husband continues to request Derm E lotion to relieve dry skin which has been an aftermath. I have added powder containing collagen I and III to the afternoon protein drink to help repair his skin. Hyaluronic acid (collagen iv) is also helpful.


2 responses to “Avoid Raw Shiitake Mushrooms!

  1. Thank you!
    I ingested raw Shiitake last Friday and Saturday.
    My rash began overnight on Sunday and by Monday I had what appeared to be linear whip marks over my body. I felt terrible.
    The itching started late on Monday, and – after ruling out measles – my doctor told me that the marks were from scratching at night (even though I had not been itchy the night before).
    He prescribed anti-histamines, and ordered a blood and stool test.
    My bloods were relatively stable (aside from low iron – not surprising as I have adenomyosis).
    I have been applying 1% hydrocortisone I had in my cupboard, and have continued to take collagen, probiotics and the antihistamines.
    It is now Friday and the rash is no longer spreading, is less itchy, and I don’t feel so miserable.
    Given that shiitake are more readily available I think it is strange that there is little to no education about the potential side effects or their toxicity to some people.
    I wonder if this is a progressive reaction, and that – if ingested again – the reaction might be worse?
    In any case I will be steering clear of these for a while, and anticipate being the boring woman in restaurants questioning the server from now on!

    Felt vindicated reading this, as I self diagnosed from Google in the end.


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