Infant Botulism – the connection between Honey and Kids
Children are the apple of their parents’ eye. Any wrong move in childcare would trouble the parents indefinitely. We often see parents being over-cautious, especially with their first child, in respect of food consumption. They would not want to try and experiment with food, let alone practice any tradition which could prove harmful to their child’s health.
In Asian communities, there is an age-old tradition of feeding a teaspoon of honey to the newborn within a couple of hours from birth. The tradition intends to ensure that the child benefits from the medicinal properties of honey and remains healthy. But, the actual effect may not be as intended. It is likely to cause more harm to the infant. In this blog, I’ll try to simplify the complex illness of Infant Botulism and its relation with honey.
Like you, my family is a big fan of honey and believe it is a supernatural immunity booster. But giving honey to children below the age of one is not recommended. Honey Twigs understand the safety concern and thus, ensures it is communicated through their packaging. The packaging highlights “Children below the age of 1 year should not be fed honey”.
Infant botulism may be simply defined as an illness caused to babies by consumption of clostridium botulinum spores. The clostridium botulinum bacteria thrives in soil, honey and any products containing honey, and other sweeteners like corn syrup.
There are microbiological and epidemiological evidences which show honey is a dietary reservoir for C-botulinum spores. On consumption, these spores turn into bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract of babies, thereby releasing toxins which cause the fatal illness.
Symptoms of infant botulism:
You may be wondering how to identify if your child is suffering from infant botulism or if it is mere discomfort. Check for major symptoms which include constipation, weak muscles, drooping face, breathing problems, and trouble swallowing with a lot of drooling.
If you notice any of the above, please consult your doctor immediately.
Treatment for infant botulism:
As you are aware that infant botulism can be fatal, it needs to treated as soon as you observe any symptoms. Doctors treat the illness by injecting an antitoxin called botulism immune globulin intravenous (BIGIV). The use of a breathing machine (ventilator) or ingesting fluids through tube or IV may be necessary, depending on the intensity and impact of the illness on the muscles.
Breastfeeding mother and honey:
There is no concern if the mother is consuming honey while breastfeeding as botulism is not transmitted through breast milk. The spores are far too big to pass through the mother’s body and into the breast milk. Breastfeeding is considered to slow the onset of the illness if it develops. You must, however, practice washing hands thoroughly and cleaning all surfaces with which the baby may come in contact, to avoid accidental consumption of honey.
Infant botulism is rare but can prove fatal. Hence, it is best recommended to wait to feed the baby with honey until the first birthday. You may try different variations to feed honey subsequently, for instance, by serving it with pancakes, oatmeal, or spreading it on the toast to the least.