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.
- Muscle weakness or floppiness.
- Loss of head control.
- Trouble breathing.
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.