Infant botulism: How can it be prevented?

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Infant botulism: How can it be prevented?

Question

How can I protect my baby from infant botulism?

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Answer

To prevent infant botulism — a rare but serious form of food poisoning — don't give honey or corn syrup (dark or light) to a baby. Both foods are potential sources of Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum) spores. Bacteria from the spores can grow and multiply in a baby's intestines, making a toxin that can cause infant botulism. The concern is only for children younger than age 1.

It's also important to follow food safety tips when canning or preparing food at home for your child. For example:

  • Use proper home-canning techniques. Pressure-cook home-canned foods at 250 F (121 C). Consider boiling home-canned foods for 10 minutes before serving them.
  • Store food safely. Discard any food that could be spoiled, as well as food containers that appear to bulge — a sign that they may contain gas produced by C. botulinum spores.

Exposure to soil or dust contaminated with C. botulinum also can cause infant botulism.

Constipation is often the first sign of infant botulism, typically accompanied by floppy movements, a weak cry, and difficulty sucking or feeding. If you suspect your baby may have infant botulism, seek medical help immediately.

Last Updated: 2010-05-15
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