May 23, 2014

The not so sweet truth about honey.

When Alexia was about 3 months, I struggled to get her to soothe herself to sleep. I was still breastfeeding, and the long hours of lying there being the dummy was becoming exhausting. So I decided to try using a pacifier since sucking was obviously soothing her. I had received a few as baby shower gifts, so I sterilized one and gave it a try. She spat it straight out! I tried several different teats but she refused them all. So naturally I chatted to some of my mommy friends to see what worked for them. Someone suggested putting some honey on it to entice her to suck for a while. I was surprised because I thought all mom’s would know that children under a year cannot have honey. But, being a first time mom, I guess I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t come across it in the pediatric ward. I know there are those super moms out there who read libraries of  child care books before baby is born and come across this info. Props to you!

But for those who didn’t get the memo, here’s what you need to know. Because the current health drive is toward being as natural as possible, I believe ‘organic’ is the word, one would think honey is natures own candy and cannot be harmful (aside from tooth decay ofcourse). The problem is that honey may contain the spores of a bacteria called C Botulinum ( also found in soil/dust and spoiled food).  Babies under 12 months still have immature intestines  without all those good infection-fighting  bacteria, so this botulinum bug can grow and releases dangerous toxins.

Infant botulism is the resulting disease and mostly occurs in babies under 6 months. The symptoms can range from mild to severe. You should look out for constipation, a weak cry and slow feeding as well as loss of facial expression and an overall floppy baby. Symptoms can start from 3-30 days after exposure to the spores, so be aware. Although it is a rare illness, breathing difficulties may develop and this is an emergency. So if you are suspicious, see your doctor immediately, they will test the stools for presence of the toxin. Unfortunately the little one will probably be hospitalized for a little while, but thankfully most recover fully over several weeks to months.

Treatment is mostly supporting nutrition and monitoring breathing, but sometimes intravenous antitoxin  may be given.

A few easy preventative measures may help your baba avoid this illness:

  1. Boil foods for 10 min
  2. Do not feed your child any foods that are possibly spoiled (throw away bulging containers) and of course
  3. Don’t give your child honey before they turn 1

Much luv,
Doctor Mommy