There are certain cultures in Nigeria especially in the western part that involve putting honey in the mouth of babies, also, some mothers wrongly believe that giving their babies honey will make them smarter, on the other hand, it can seriously harm them, and here’s why: Two words: Infant Botulism
What is Infant Botulism?
Infant botulism is a rare bacterial infection that occurs in the intestines of babies under one year of age
It happens when a baby ingests spores of a bacteria known as Clostridium Botulinum that is present in the soil and sometimes, honey
This condition can cause, muscle weakness, paralysis and sometimes breathing problems
If it is caught early, it can be treated with little to no long-standing effects, the problem is, it is rare and may not be easily diagnosed
What Causes It?
The most common way a baby will get infected is if they come in contact with the spores of Clostridium Botulinum, this causes paralysis and muscle weakness,
Babies under one year should not take honey because their digestive systems and immune systems have not been developed enough to prevent the germination of this bacteria, This is because, in older children and adults, the bacteria is removed before it germinates into spores
Signs and Symptoms
The first sign of this condition is constipation, and herein lies the problem, constipation can be caused by many other conditions so it may not be recognized as an emergency immediately
Other symptoms are:
- Weak muscle tones and reflexes
- Problems with feeding
- Breathing difficulties, weak muscles used in breathing
- Little to no movements
- trouble swallowing
- excessive drooling of saliva
- baby will seem floppy
These other symptoms may take a few days and even up to a month to show up
How is it Diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects that the child has infant botulism, they may take stool, vomit, or blood samples that laboratory technicians can check for the toxin that is responsible for the condition.
The test may take several days to come out so the doctor may start by asking questions and examinations that may make him suspect that the child has this condition
Treatment will have to begin as soon as possible
How Can It be Treated?
The baby will have to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. The baby’s breathing will need to be supported They may also provide intravenous (IV) fluids if the baby has trouble feeding.
The baby will also be given botulism immune globulin intravenous (BIGIV). This can help the baby recover faster by mopping up the toxins,
If treatment is started early, the baby can recover fully from infant botulism
How can I prevent this?
The best way to try to prevent infant botulism is to avoid giving honey to a baby under the age of 1 year. Do not give them food products also that may contain honey
They can also get it from dirt and soil so ensure proper handwashing of both the baby and those that come in contact with the child
Cook vegetables properly and wash if the child has started eating adult meals