The Dangers of Honey
Although honey has the reputation of a natural and (semi)-healthy sweetener, it can be very dangerous to your baby. The reason I’m sharing this with you guys, is that I had never heard of the dangers of honey before I became pregnant with my daughter. So I can imagine there are other people out there who didn’t get the honey memo!
Why is Honey dangerous?
Raw honey can contain “Clostridium botulinum spores”, aka botulism bacteria. It’s often undetectable, even when specifically tested for botulism bacteria! Adults can digest a small amount of botulinum spores without even getting sick because our immune system is more developed than that of our mini me’s.
Most honey consumed nowadays has been pasteurized (to improve the shelf life). During the pasteurizing process the honey is heated to kill the bacteria. But with the rise of organic wholesome foods among hipsters, raw honey has become increasingly popular again. It is said to have a ton of good qualities, but it is NOT safe to eat for an infant younger than 12 months old (not even if it has been mixed in with other foods or cooked).
What is Infant Botulism?
Infant Botulism was first described in 1976. Although it occurs rarely, its high fatality rate makes it a great concern for parents. Infants younger than 12 months are vulnerable to C. botulinum colonizing the intestine. Infants can ingest spores in honey (or simply by eating those handfuls of spore-containing dirt from the garden). The spores settle in the large intestine and, once colonized, toxin is produced and absorbed into the infant’s body. As infant botulism progresses, sucking and swallowing become difficult. The baby suffers overall weakness and “cannot control it’s head movements” :(. Because of the paralysis of the muscles, the baby can appear floppy. Breathing is impaired because the muscles necessary to breathe become paralyzed, and death from respiratory failure is a very real danger!
Botulism can be treated with an antitoxin which blocks the action of toxin circulating in the blood. If given before paralysis is complete, antitoxin can prevent worsening and shorten recovery time.
Symptoms of botulism typically appear within 12-36 hours after eating contaminated food, but may occur up to 14 days later in infants. If your infant is showing one or more of the following warning signs after consuming raw honey go to a hospital immediately emergency room immediately, as this is a life-threatening illness!
According to the CDC, infants with botulism can show the following symptoms:
- the first symptoms include constipation;
- the infant is lethargic or exhausted;
- has difficulty swallowing and will feed poorly;
- has a weak cry;
- will appear “floppy” (this is why infant botulism is also referred to as “floppy baby syndrome”); and
- have drooping eyelids and other facial weakness.