Fifteen people have been poisoned by wild mushrooms in the last few weeks — including children as young as 15 months old. And some of the cases resulted in hospitalizations with potentially life-threatening consequences.

According to the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, poisonous mushrooms are easily mistaken for edible ones — even by experienced growers. The center's Dr. Bruce Ruck also says people often believe mushrooms are safe because they've eaten them in other parts of the country or world.

With the weather cooling down, "we are seeing a lot of mushrooms popping up on the lawns, popping up on golf courses and by the side of the road and in backyards, and people believe that some of them are edible," he said.

Ruck said mushroom poisoning can cause liver failure and even death.

"Eating even a few bites of certain mushrooms can cause severe illness," the center warned in a health alert. "Some symptoms of mushroom poisoning include intense vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration, damage to vital organs like the liver and even death."

Ruck adds: "Unless you are a mushroom specialist, a mycologist, you probably do not know what they are, because they could look exactly what an edible mushroom looks like."

The center says in cases of suspected mushroom poisoning, call 911 immediately — don't waste time looking up symptoms on the Internet or otherwise investigating first.

It also says to remove any remaining parts of the mushroom from the mouth of the person exposed, and place those fragments and all mushrooms that are in the immediate vicinity of the incident into one or more paper bags. It says not to use plastic.

The center says to take a digital photograph of the mushrooms — ideally next to other objects to get a sense of size.

But also, Ruck said, "we are 24-7, 365 if people have questions. If your child grabs a mushroom and puts it in their mouth, call us at 1-800-222-1222.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor at New Jersey 101.5

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