Botulism

Botulism is a rare but very serious type of food poisoning caused by toxins produced by bacteria (Clostridium botulinum) that are commonly found in soil. Botulism is often caused by food that is not home-canned properly, such as home-canned beans and corn.

In children younger than 1 year, botulism may be caused by bacteria found in raw (unpasteurized) honey or corn syrup. An adult's digestive system can defend against the bacteria in these foods, but an infant's digestive system cannot. Newborns and infants should not be given raw honey or corn syrup.

Symptoms of botulism usually begin 12 to 36 hours after the person eats contaminated food. Symptoms include blurred or double vision, muscle weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and headache. The person may also have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. The most noticeable symptoms in children include double vision, irritability, and muscle weakness. Some children may have vomiting, constipation, inability to pass urine (urinary retention), and a dry mouth.

Botulism is potentially fatal and requires immediate medical care. People who have botulism will often be admitted to a hospital for treatment.

Last Updated: February 23, 2009

Author: Bets Davis, MFA

Medical Review: Ruth Schneider, MPH, RD - Diet and Nutrition & W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease

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