Even though it is a rare illness, botulism is a very dangerous one. If not treated as soon as possible, the consequences are dramatic and irreversible. Without prompt treatment, a person who suffers from botulism can have breathing problems, muscle paralysis or, even worse, he/she can die. Taking all these into consideration, we can affirm that this condition is a severe one, and has to be carefully treated. It is also important to know a few facts regarding it, such as causes, symptoms and how you can prevent it.
What are the causes of botulism?
This life-threatening disease is triggered by a certain type of bacteria called clostridium botulinum. What you have to know about this one is that its development requires no oxygen. For this reason, this kind of bacteria can be found in canned foods, as they have the proper conditions in there. Corn syrup and honey can also be contaminated. Ingesting clostridium botulinum is one way of getting botulism.
This type of bacteria can get into your body through an open wound or any other break in the skin. Experts suggest that this way of contamination has increased considerably during recent years, because of some drugs where the bacteria may be present, such as heroin and cocaine.
However, botulism is not a contagious disease, so you cannot take it only by staying in the same room with a patient who suffers from it. You can take it either by ingesting it or through a break in your skin.
What are the main symptoms of this disease?
The symptoms of this illness are different in the case of botulism food poisoning compared to those triggered by getting clostridium botulinum through a break in your skin.
If you ingested contaminated food, the first signs might appear after 12 hours. However, in some cases, the symptoms can be noticed only after 36 hours. This type of contamination is common for babies, and the first signs are constipation, weak cry, dropping eyelids, and drooling. His/her muscles are weakened when suffering from this disease, so you may also notice difficulties in his/her movements, or the inability of controlling the head. As the symptoms worsen, you can also notice paralysis of the muscles.
Adults are more exposed to botulism by means of open wounds. The first symptoms, in this case, are difficulties in speaking or swallowing. Then, a person who has been infected with this type of bacteria will have troubles in breathing normally and feeling exhausted. Dropping eyelids are another common sign of botulism, just like nausea or vomiting.
How can you prevent it?
- If you notice any bulges in your canned food – no matter if you bought it, or it is homemade – you better not eat that food.
- Follow all the instructions or procedures when canning food by yourself, so that you avoid contamination.
- Do not ever feed your baby with honey or corn syrup until he/she is at least 1 year old, even though you eat that food without experiencing any particular symptoms. His/her body differs from yours and cannot handle bacteria and viruses in the same way as your body.
- Experts recommend boiling foods for 10 minutes if you want to make sure they’re safe and clostridium botulinum-free.