Health Officials Urge Texans to Not Give Children Under 12 Months of Age Honey
Honey Pacifiers Trigger Infant Botulism Alert
The Texas Department of State Health Services is warning parents and other adults not to give babies pacifiers containing honey after four babies were treated for botulism in Texas. Each infant had been given a honey-containing pacifier purchased in Mexico.
The four illnesses occurred from mid-August to the end of October and caused all four babies to be hospitalized for life-saving treatment. The unrelated infants are residents of West Texas, North Texas and South Texas.
What is Botulism?
Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by a neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. When ingested, the bacteria releases a toxin which attacks the body’s nerves and can cause difficulty breathing, paralysis and even death.
What is Infant Botulism?
As we grow and develop, we acquire more “good” bacteria in our bodies to fight any that may be damaging and make us much more resiliant to getting sick. However, as infants are still in the process of of acquiring these natural internal superheros, they must be shielding from potential threats until their system is ready. For this reason, infants are are particularly vulerable to infant botulism with 90% of the cases ocurring in babies less than 6 months old. Botulinum spores may be found in dirt and honey which, if consumed, the spores can germinate into bacteria within their small intestine.
Infant Botulism and Honey
According to medical experts, a baby’s intestinal microflora (normal flora) is not sufficiently developed to ingest botulinum spores. As spores of the bacteria, found in dirt and dust, can contaminate honey, it’s best to wait until a child is one year old (12 months) before they may consume it.
“The DSHS issued a health alert today asking health care providers to look out for cases of infant botulism and to remind parents not to let babies eat honey. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics have long advised that children under 12 months old should not consume honey.”
Quality honey is rich in antioxidants and delivers a wealth of health benefits, however, it’s best to not give it to any infant under 12 months of age.
The Culprit: Honey-Filled Pacifers
“Honey-filled pacifiers, chupones con miel in Spanish, are not common in the United States but may be available in some specialty stores and through online retailers. Most aren’t designed for the honey to be consumed, but some have a small hole so a child could eat the honey, or the pacifier could accidentally rupture or leak. Parents should also avoid pacifiers containing any other food substance, because they could also pose a risk of botulism.” – The Texas Department of State Health Services.
Botulism Symptoms in Infants:
Symptoms in infants often include:
- Generalized weakness (the “Floppy” baby syndrome)
- Poor feeding
- Weak cry
- Poor head control
- Poor gag and sucking reflex
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