Infant botulism is a gastric infection that occurs in children below the age of 12 months. It can be fatal if left untreated for long. Let us understand some key details about this disease.
Have you come across an infant with breathing and respiratory problems, coupled with extreme fatigue and paralytic symptoms? If yes, then the infant needs to be immediately taken to a good health practitioner. There are high chances that the infant is suffering from botulism. It is not as common as most diseases, however, it is certainly not rare. It is known to occur in majority of the American states. Here are some quick facts to help you identify this disease.
Botulism is caused by a common life-threatening bacteria called Clostridium botulinum. The bacteria freely exist in contaminated soil, air and water. Amongst infants, this bacteria is likely to enter the blood stream if fresh cuts and wounds on the infant’s body is exposed to soil and water contaminated with the bacteria. At other times, it is known to exist in natural syrups like cornstarch and honey. The bacteria can easily get ingested while consuming food and water. Once the bacteria enters the body, it rapidly grows inside a baby’s gastrointestinal tract in the form of spores. Fatality rate on account this problem is less than 1% in case of prompt administration of medication and hospitalization.
As parents, you need to keep your eyes open for any of symptoms mentioned here to help early detection of this health problem:
- Respiratory problems
- Slowing and stopping of breathing
- Weakness and lethargy
- No control over head movement
- Sagging eyes
- No energy for suckling and swallowing food
- Gradual paralysis
- Weak crying
It is generally observed that survival rates are higher if cases are detected at an early stage. Doctors generally recommend tests such as an Electromyography (EMG), and a simple stool test for detecting infant botulism. Doctors may opt for a physical examination of infants and test them for muscle and tendon reflexes, gag reflexes, droopiness of eyelids and so on.
The following are the treatment options available that will be administered to the baby.
- One of the very first treatments includes improving the respiration of the infant. If required, the child may be put onto a respiratory support. The child’s breathing needs to be continuously monitored.
- Doctors most often administer a drug known as ‘Botulism immune globulin’. Your child may be administered with an additional dosage of antibiotics only if other complications such as pneumonia are developed.
- At times, doctors administer botulinum antitoxin.
- As part of safety precautions, doctors may recommend avoidance of honey and cornstarch in your infant’s food intake.
It is best to prevent the disease from occurring rather than trying to treat once it strikes. Hence, here’s what you need to do:
- As an alert parent, you may be required to check details of food contents in ready-to-eat food that you buy in supermarkets. Ensure that the food is prepared devoid of cornstarch and honey. At times, the honey bottle or honey based food preparation may be certified to be free from spores, but it is still recommended not to take chances with your infant’s health.
- If you happen to buy canned food, check to see that the food is as fresh as possible. A bulging can of ready-to-eat meal might mean that the food within it is already spoiled.
- If you are habituated to preserve home cooked meals, then ensure that you heat it at a minimum temperature of 125° C, before you serve it to your infant.
Lastly, keep your home free from soil and dust. If your child has fresh cuts and wounds on his body, prevent the same from getting directly exposed to dust and soil. Apply antiseptic spray or gel for further protection and quick healing of the wound. Make sure to dress the wound regularly to maintain hygiene and avoid infections.