General Practice 2022

Infant botulism: what é, symptoms and treatment

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Infant botulism: what é, symptoms and treatment
Infant botulism: what é, symptoms and treatment

Infant botulism is a relatively rare but serious infection caused by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum that can contaminate water and poorly preserved food. Thus, the bacteria can enter the baby's body through the consumption of contaminated food and start to produce a toxin that results in the appearance of symptoms.

The most common source of infection in babies is the consumption of honey, because honey is a great way to spread the spores produced by this bacteria. The presence of the toxin in the baby's body can result in severe impairment of the nervous system, and the infection can be confused with a stroke, for example.

For this reason, honey consumption is not recommended before 2 years of age to avoid the emergence of botulism, which can end up harming the baby's development. Check out other foods that should be avoided when feeding your baby.

Main symptoms

The initial symptoms of botulism in babies are similar to the flu, however they are followed by paralysis of the nerves and muscles of the face and head, which later progresses to the arms, legs and respiratory muscles.

So the baby can present:

  • Difficulty swallowing;
  • Weak suction;
  • Apathy;
  • Loss of facial expressions;
  • Drowsiness;
  • Lethargy;
  • Irritability;
  • Poorly reactive pupils;
  • Constipation.

Whenever there is a suspicion of botulism in the baby, it is important to go to the hospital or consult the pediatrician, as the lack of diagnosis and delay in treatment increases the risk of worsening the infection, which can put the baby at risk of life.

The diagnosis is easier when there is information on the child's recent food history, but it can only be confirmed through a blood test or stool culture, in which the presence of Clostridium botulinum bacteria must be verified.

See more details about the symptoms and diagnosis of botulism.

How the treatment is done

Treatment of botulism in babies is done with stomach and intestinal lavage to remove any contaminated food remains. Intravenous anti-botulism immunoglobulin (IGB-IV) can be used, but it produces side effects that deserve attention. In some cases, it is necessary for the baby to breathe with the help of devices for a few days and, in most cases, he recovers completely, without major consequences.

Besides honey, see other foods that the baby cannot eat until the age of 3.

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