Botulism is a paralytic illness often caused by consuming contaminated food. The following HealthHearty article elaborates more on symptoms and treatment of this foodborne illness.
Many people do not pay attention to what they eat. This lack of concern about the daily diet increases the risk of botulism, an infection of the bacterium botulinum. In most cases, eating contaminated food is the main cause of botulism infection. Upon entering the body, the bacterium produces a deadly toxin known as botulin, which is capable enough to launch a paralytic attack.
Apart from ingesting contaminated food, an open wound can also cause a botulism infection. Once the wound gets infected, it won’t take long for the bacteria to enter the bloodstream and spread its toxin. Accidentally consuming spores of the botulinum bacteria, which is more common in infants, can also cause this infection.
Being a paralytic illness, the bacteria impairs the working of the muscles gradually. Initial symptoms of this infection manifest in the form of constipation, lethargy, fatigue, poor reflexes, nausea, and muscle weakness. The toxin disturbs the electrical activity of the brain, which is known to control muscle movement. So firstly, the eyelid muscles get affected and the person may suffer from droopy eyelids and vision problems.
Botulism infection reaching the throat muscles may cause trouble swallowing food and sore throat. When the toxin impairs the nerves that control breathing muscles, it triggers respiratory problems. This may be followed by inability to talk properly. The neck muscles may eventually succumb to the toxin reaction. As a result, the neck muscles may no longer be able to bear the weight of the head. Over time, the limbs and the arms are likely to get involved in the paralytic illness.
Storing food items in an incorrect way, often leads to formation of botulinum. Low acid foods preserved at temperatures varying between 4.5 and 49 degree Celsius is the most suitable environment for botulinum spores to thrive. Improperly canned food products also favor the growth of this bacteria. Doctors suggest that commercial canned foods should not be purchased if the container appears tampered. In case low acid foods have to be canned, it is necessary to improve their acidity levels. This can be easily done by introducing citric acid, vinegar or lemon juice in the food item to be canned.
When it comes to storing vegetables and meat, do not forget to use airtight containers and make sure they are kept in freezers. Also, when you come home from the office and wish to eat food that was prepared in the morning, make sure to heat it properly for 4 to 5 minutes. This is because, the toxin is unable to survive in a hot environment (above 85 degree Celsius) and so heating the food before cooking can go a long way in preventing this infection.
Administering antitoxin medications is the standard treatment to stop the damaging effects of the toxin. On the whole, food that is cooked in sanitary conditions and stored correctly as mentioned above can definitely play a significant role to prevent this illness from occurring.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.