Botulism is a rare, but life-threatening illness that needs urgent care.
Toxins made by certain bacterial spores cause botulism. The spores are found:
In the soil
At the bottom of lakes, rivers, and streams
In fish, mammals, and shellfish
Spores live in poorly cooked foods. A very small amount of the toxin can cause illness. You can get sick by eating foods that carry the bacteria or toxin. This occurs with:
If a baby swallows the spores, they will grow and make the toxin. Unlike adults and older children, babies become sick from toxins growing in their bowels. Honey is a prime source of infant botulism. Other sources are soil and dust.
Wound infection in the US is rare, but it can happen. The toxin travels to other parts of the body through the bloodstream.
If you eat poorly preserved, cooked, or canned foods
For babies who eat honey
If you have a dirty or infected wound (rare)
Use IV drugs (rare)
Symptoms start in the face and eyes, then move down both sides of the body. Without care, muscles in the arms, legs, and torso will not move. This involves muscles that help you breathe. Botulism can be deadly.
Botulism. Food Safety—US Department of Health & Human Service website. Available at: https://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/causes/bacteriaviruses/botulism/index.html. Accessed May 23, 2018.
Botulism. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/kid/watch/house/botulism.html. Updated September 2015. Accessed May 23, 2018.
Botulism. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/anaerobic-bacteria/botulism. Updated January 2018. Accessed May 23, 2018.
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