VANCOUVER – Health officials are sounding the alarm about an increase in mushroom poisonings in British Columbia, the majority of which involve young children.

The BC Centre for Disease Control said there were 201 mushroom poisoning calls between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30 of this year, putting 2019 on track to being "one of the most active years in recent history."

By comparison, the province saw a total of 202 calls for all of 2018, and 161 the year before.

"We're at or past that already, with the busiest part of the fall season to come," said poison control pharmacist Raymond Li.

Even more troublingly, the BCCDC said about two-thirds of the calls that have come in so far this year have come from parents concerned their young child may have ingested a poisonous mushroom.

"The other calls we get are from people who are foraging mushrooms for food and have eaten something and then gotten sick, or they ate something and thought they knew what it was and are having second thoughts about it," said Li.

The death cap is an invasive species that's considered the most poisonous mushroom in the world, and it can look deceptively like puffballs or straw mushrooms depending on its stage of life.

When mature, the mushroom's cap has a distinctive olive or green hue, though it can also appear pale green, pale brown, pale yellow or even sometimes white.

The BCCDC said death cap mushrooms have increasingly been found in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Victoria, Southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, though there hasn't been a fatality reported since a child died in 2016.

Death cap poisoning is suspected in the deaths of two dogs this year, however.

To stay safe, the BCCDC urges foragers to only pick mushrooms that are well-known to be edible and are easily distinguishable from poisonous varieties. It also recommends pickers always save one kind of each mushroom so their identities can be confirmed should symptoms develop.

“If you're not sure what it is, do not eat it,” said Li. “If you have eaten something you're not sure of, or if you're feeling ill please call the poison control centre 24 hours day, seven days a week.”

The phone number for the Drug and Poison Information Centre is 1-800-567-8911.

People who eat death cap mushrooms can experience nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, low blood pressure, liver failure and kidney failure, with symptoms beginning around eight to 12 hours after consumption.

Though symptoms will sometimes be followed by an apparent recovery period, officials said trouble will return as kidney and liver damage progresses over the following days.