Infant Botulism

Infant Botulism

Infant botulism is a rare bacteria infection that babies from birth to a year are at risk of getting.  Infant botulism is caused by Clostridium botulinum spores that release a bacteria from the spores that get in the baby’s intestinal tract.  It is a gastrointestinal condition, that the bacteria gets into the intestines and produces a dangerous toxin. 

This bacteria can be found in soils, honey and unwashed produce.  Because the bacteria can be found in soils your baby can come in contact with it from rugs or carpet. 

It usually affects infants that are less than a year old, usually between three weeks and six months.  This is because an infant’s intestinal tract is not mature enough to fight off the bacteria.  


Symptoms for infant botulism may take awhile to present themselves.  They could be present after a few days of ingesting the bacteria, or even take up to a month.  The first sign of something being wrong with your baby’s digestion is constipation.  So the first symptom of infant botulism is constipation.  Other symptoms can be weak facial muscles, along with excessive drooling.  More symptoms can include a weak cry, weak arms, legs and neck, and even slow or no reflexes.  If infant botulism goes untreated it can lead to breathing problems or trouble swallowing.  This can lead to problems in your infant if it goes untreated. 


To diagnose infant botulism your doctor will do a physical exam first.  The doctor will also listen to the symptoms that your child has been experiencing.  If your doctor suspects that your baby could have infant botulism they may send a stool sample to get tested for the bacteria.  Treatment may start before the lab results are back.  A quick treatment is key to a full recovery of infant botulism. 


Babies with infant botulism will be admitted into the ICU (intensive care unit)  immediately.  This is because if it is far enough along it can cause trouble breathing which means your baby would need to be hooked up to a ventilator to help them breathe.  If the treatment is started early enough it will shorten your stay tremendously.  A full recovery is normal with early treatment.  Once your baby is admitted to the ICU they will be hooked up to IV fluids, so that they don’t get dehydrated during their stay in case they aren’t feeding well.  Another IV that they will be hooked up to is botulism immune globulin IV, which is the antibiotics that will help attack the bacteria.  A ventilator will only be used when needed if your child starts having difficulty breathing.  


Infant botulism is a life threatening disease.  But with proper treatment the prognosis is usually always good.  The only time that infant botulism is fatal is when it goes untreated or isn’t caught in enough time to treat.  When treated appropriately there will be no long term effects.  Infant botulism is the most common type of botulism.  Only about 100 babies per year in the United States will have infant botulism.  Since it is very rare knowing the symptoms and what to look for is very important.  If you think your child has come in contact with the bacteria or has had some honey then make sure to take them to the doctor to get tested for infant botulism.  Left untreated it can be very fatal.  


100 babies per year in the United States will have infant botulism

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