Baby and Honey: Facts and Myths

Can I feed honey to a baby?

No! Never feed honey to babies younger than 1 year old, because Clostridium botulinum in the honey may cause botulism in infants.

This kind of bacteria lives in the soil and dust, and can also contaminate some foods, especially the honey. Weak muscles are the main symptoms of botulism in infants, which can be presented as poor sucking, weak crying, constipation and decreased muscle tone.

Parents should be aware that don’t feed honey and honey-containing foods to babies who are younger than 1 year old. Make sure to read food labels carefully before feeding the baby.

After 1 year old, the child’s digestive system function gradually matures, and the spores of Clostridium botulinum can be discharged effectively and timely.


What is botulism in infants?

Clostridium botulinum usually affects infants from aged 3 weeks to 6 months, which is called botulism. And infants under 1 year old are at higher risk of infection.
Clostridium botulinum spores in dust and air may contaminate the honey.

The digestive system of infants under 1 year old can’t discharge the spores of Clostridium botulinum. Once the bacterial spores enter the body, they can germinate, multiply and produce toxins. This toxin interferes with the normal interaction between muscles and nerves, affecting the baby’s limb movement, feeding and breathing.

After 1 year old, the child’s digestive system function gradually matures, and bacterial spores can be discharged before causing harm to the body.


Can older children and adults get infected?

Yes, older children and adults can also be infected by Clostridium botulinum through wound and foods.

Botulism in wound: Clostridium botulinum infects wounds and produces toxins.

Foodborne botulism: usually occurs when eating homemade canned food contaminated with bacterial toxins.

What Are the Symptoms of Botulism?

Symptoms often appear in 3-30 days after the Clostridium botulinum spores enters into the body. Usually, the early symptoms are constipation. Other common symptoms include:

  • Stiff facial expression
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weak crying
  • Reduced limb movement
  • Difficulty feeding and poor sucking
  • Difficulty swallowing and increased saliva

If the botulism in infants is found in time, it can be cured. The key is to seek medical attention immediately when suspicious symptoms are found.


What Are the treatments for infant botulism?

The treatment for infant botulism needs to be given in the intensive care unit. The purpose of various measures is to reduce the effects caused by toxins in the baby’s body.

If a baby’s respiratory muscles are affected, it needs a ventilator to help breath.

In order to maintain the body’s water and electrolyte balance, intravenous infusion or feeding through a nasal feeding tube are needed when the baby suffers with difficulty swallowing.

Early use of Clostridium botulinum immunoglobulin intravenous injection can speed up the recovery of the body function and reduce hospital stay.

Early diagnosis and timely and appropriate treatment can help the baby recover soon.


How to prevent infant botulism?

Like many other bacteria, Clostridium botulinum spores that cause botulism in infants are very common, and they can be found in dust, dirt, even in the air.

Honey has been proved to be highly susceptible to contamination by Clostridium botulinum spores, which can cause botulism after ingestion. Therefore, do not feed honey or honey-containing foods to infants under one year old.

Keywords: Clostridium botulinum; botulism; infant botulism; cause botulism; symptoms botulism; treatments botulism; prevention botulism

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.