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Food can be contaminated with the bacteria and its toxin. It is the toxin produced by
itself—that causes botulism in humans. Food that may be contaminated with the toxin include:
- Home-canned goods
- Meat products
- Canned vegetables
- If an infant swallows C. botulinum spores, they will grow in the baby's body and produce the toxin. Unlike adults and older children, infants become sick from toxin produced by bacteria growing in their own intestines. Honey is a prime source of infant botulism. Other sources include soil and dust.
- A wound can become infected with the bacteria, but this is rare in the United States. The toxin then travels to other parts of the body through the bloodstream.
- Eating improperly cooked or canned foods
- For infants, consuming honey
- Using IV drugs—rare
- Double or blurred vision
- Droopy eyelids
- Generalized weakness, fatigue, vertigo/dizziness
- Muscle weakness
- Sore throat
- Trouble swallowing
- Dry mouth
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty breathing
- Not eating or sucking
- Little energy
- Poor muscle tone
- Weak cry
- Blood tests
- Spinal fluid analysis
|Intubation to Assist with Breathing|
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Methods to Eliminate the Toxin
- Surgery to clean a wound
- Antibiotics to treat a wound infection
- Do not feed honey to children less than one year old.
- Refrigerate oils that contain garlic or herbs.
- Bake potatoes without foil. If potatoes are wrapped in foil, keep them hot until served or refrigerate them.
- Do not taste foods that appear spoiled.
- Do not eat food from a can that is bulging.
- Boil home-canned foods for 10-20 minutes before eating.
- Practice good hygiene when canning. Follow government recommendations.
- Seek medical care for wounds. Return to the doctor if a wound looks infected.
- Do not inject illegal drugs.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov
US Department of Health and Human Services: Food Safety http://www.foodsafety.gov
Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education http://www.canfightbac.org
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Botulism. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/botulism. Updated July 26, 2011. Accessed August 7, 2013.
Botulism. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated July 5, 2013. Accessed August 7, 2013.
Botulism. FoodSafety.gov website. Available at: http://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/causes/bacteriaviruses/botulism/index.html. Accessed August 7, 2013.
Botulism. KidsHealth.org website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/kid/watch/house/botulism.html. Updated October 2011. Accessed August 7, 2013.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 08/2013
- Update Date: 05/11/2013