The United States Food and Drug Administration has just released a warning to parents regarding giving honey to their babies. The new caution comes as a result of four infant botulism cases in Texas that are related to honey.
All four of the infants who developed botulism had been given pacifiers that were purchased in Mexico and contained honey. Also, all of the babies had to receive “life-saving treatment” according to the FDA. Other than this, the cases are unrelated; still, the FDA advises that similar products are widely available for purchase within the United States, especially through online retailers.
If you are not aware, botulism is a rare illness that is caused by a toxin. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the toxin attacks the body’s nerves and early symptoms include weakness of the muscles in the face, eyes, mouth, and throat. The infection can spread to the neck and arms and even the torso and legs. Most importantly, botulism can result in weakness among the muscles of the respiratory process, which is what makes this disease so dangerous.
Botulism can be caused by a variety of sources which includes, unfortunately, canned foods with a low acid content. It can also be caused by a wound infection or simply coming into contact with a handful of bacteria types that are commonly found in dust and soil. In this case, of course, the honey used in these pacifiers can also contain the bacteria that caused the infant botulism. This type of infection is the result of botulism spores growing in the digestive tract to produce the toxin.
All this in mind, then, infectious disease expert Amesh Adalja, MD, advises that honey should only be given to children who are older than one year. The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security senior scholar goes on to say that one year is a smart waiting period because it is after this point that children have started to develop their own microbiome: the gut bacteria we develop that aids in digestion and immune support.
Furthermore, analysts warn the importance of avoiding anything that might cause botulism, particularly in children, because you cannot reverse any damage that it can cause. Treatment can only stop the disease from getting worse.