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Health Information For Parents
Infant botulism is an illness that can happen when a baby ingests (takes in) toxins from a type of bacteria. Babies with infant botulism (BAH-chuh-liz-im) can have muscle weakness, a weak cry, and trouble breathing. They need to be treated in a hospital. With early diagnosis and proper medical care, a baby should fully recover from the illness.
Infant botulism is caused by a toxin (a poison) from Clostridium botulinum bacteria, which live in soil and dust. The bacteria can get on surfaces like carpets and floors and also can contaminate honey. That’s why babies younger than 1 year old should never be given honey.
These bacteria are harmless to older kids and adults. That’s because their mature digestive systems can move the toxins through the body before they cause harm.
Infant botulism usually affects babies who are 3 weeks to 6 months old. But all babies are at risk for it until their first birthday.
Babies with infant botulism might have:
They also might not feed well or move as much as usual.
Doctors diagnose infant botulism by asking about the baby’s symptoms. They’ll do an exam, and might order tests to see how the baby’s muscles are working.
Babies with infant botulism need care in a hospital, usually in the intensive care unit (ICU). The health care team will try to limit the problems the toxin causes in the baby’s body.
Doctors treat infant botulism with an antitoxin called botulism immune globulin intravenous (BIGIV). They give this to babies as soon as possible. Babies with botulism who get BIGIV recover sooner and spend less time in the hospital than babies who don’t.
If the toxin affects the breathing muscles, a baby might need to use a breathing machine (ventilator) for a few weeks until they get stronger. It also can affect the swallowing muscles, so babies usually need intravenous (IV) fluids or feedings through a tube to get nourishment.
Experts don’t know why some infants get botulism while others don’t.
One way to reduce the risk of botulism is to not give infants honey or any processed foods with honey before their first birthday. Honey is a proven source of the bacteria. If you have questions about other products to avoid, ask your doctor.
Find out what the experts have to say.
Germs are the microscopic bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa that can cause disease.
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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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