Everyone loves honey. It’s all-natural and delicious! But you may have heard that you should not feed honey to a baby. But do you know why not?
It’s because of botulism. Botulism is a disease that is contracted by ingesting spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. Big name? Yes – and big problems! Botulism is not very common, but cases of infantile botulism can be very serious. So serious, that it can become FATAL.
These spores produce a toxin that causes weakness and paralysis of the affected person’s muscles. It can even affect the breathing and swallowing muscles and that’s when it can become a life-threatening problem.
Honey is a known source of botulism spores. This is a problem for babies because their developing digestive and immune systems cannot inactivate the botulism spores. It is more common to see this problem in babies under six months old. However, it can happen in babies up to 12 months of age. Because of this, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against feeding honey to a baby under 1 year of age. Did you know? Both raw honey and pasteurized honey can contain botulism toxin-producing spores! Therefore, babies under 12 months should not eat cooked honey either.
Infant Botulism Symptoms
You will probably not note symptoms right after an exposure to the spores. Spores need time to germinate and produce the toxins before effects are noted. This can take anywhere from 2 to 30 days, which is one ofthe reasons why it can sometimes be hard to trace the source of exposure. The first symptom a child presents is usually constipation. The rest of the muscle tonewill be somewhat soft, causing the baby to appear weakened or even floppy. Other symptoms may include:
- Feeding slowly
- Facial expressions diminished or lost
- Reduced gag reflex
- Weakened cry
- Droopy eyelids
There are other ways someone can get botulism.
Food preparation and home-canning
Food can be contaminated if it is not prepared and stored correctly.
- To make the process safer, boil food for 10 minutes, which can destroy toxins.
- If a food item appears spoiled or the packaging is bulging, don’t feed it to your baby! It may contain the harmful toxin-producing spores. This applied to all foods stored at home, not just the ones you home-can.
These can be in the soil and dust, and they become airborne and are inhaled, may cause the disease. Areas in the United States are at greatest risk are the states of California, Pennsylvania and Utah, because the spore count in the ground in those places are high. Unfortunately, there is not a lot one can do to prevent it except avoiding areas where soil is likely to be disturbed causing the spores to be airborne, such as agricultural and construction sites.
In this variant, a wound can become contaminated with botulism spores, which can then enter the blood stream, causing symptoms like those mentioned above.
If you suspect your child may have botulism you must act quickly. Get your child to be evaluated by their pediatrician. With the signs and symptoms, the disease can be strongly suspected, and a stool test can be done for confirmation. Prompt treatment with botulism immune globulin, given through the veins in the hospital, can prevent dangerous complications.
Now, that is a lot of information! But if you were unsure, now you know exactly why you should not give honey to your baby under 1 year old. It is the one thing you can easily control to decrease the chances of your baby contracting this disease. On the bright side, that is one additional thing you get to look forward to when planning baby’s first birthday. They are now allowed to safely eat honey and enjoy its natural yummy goodness.
Question time! What is your favorite use for honey? Mine is putting it on top of my morning yogurt, delish! Leave your answer below, I would love to hear from you guys. Also, share with a friend who you think could find this information useful.