Botulism in Children

Botulism in Children

Infant botulism is a serious infection that is caused by a bacterial poison (toxin). It usually affects babies who are 6 months of age or younger.

What are the causes?

This condition is caused by a toxin that is produced by the Clostridium botulinumbacteria. The toxin develops when a baby swallows (ingests) these bacteria, which then settle in the gut and grow.

What increases the risk?

This condition is more likely to develop in infants who:

  • Are 6 months of age or younger.
  • Are exposed to soil or dust in the air.
  • Have eaten honey.
  • Have an open wound that got dirty.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • A weak cry.
  • A less expressive face.
  • Eating slowly or gagging.
  • Constipation.
  • Muscle weakness or floppiness.
  • Loss of head control.
  • Irritability.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Seizures.

Usually, symptoms do not start for days to weeks after the child has ingested the bacteria.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed with a physical exam. A sample of your child’s stool, blood, or vomit may be tested for the toxin.

How is this treated?

This condition may be treated with:

  • Nutrition and fluids through an IV tube. This may be done if your child cannot swallow.
  • Breathing support from a tube or machine (ventilator).
  • Enemas or vomiting that is caused on purpose (induced). This may be done to treat constipation.
  • A medicine that is called an antitoxin.

Most children are treated in the hospital.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Give over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as directed by your child’s health care provider.
  • Do notgive honey to your baby if he or she is younger than 12 months of age.
  • Avoid exposing your baby to excessive dust, dirt, or unclean air.
  • Keep any wounds clean and dry.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as directed by your child’s health care provider. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your child’s symptoms get worse.
  • Your child has new symptoms.
  • Your child’s symptoms return.

Get help right away if:

  • Your baby has trouble breathing.
  • Your baby becomes weak or floppy.
  • Your baby has a less expressive face.
  • Your baby has a seizure.
  • Your baby has trouble swallowing.
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