Why babies can not eat honey?

Are you wondering why babies can not eat honey? Honey is one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods, whose unmistakable flavor makes it a natural sweet.

For that reason, our parents and grandparents used to moisten the baby's lollipop in a little honey, in order to reassure them. But nevertheless, science explains to us today that it is a dangerous practice, never, under any circumstances, should honey be given to children under twelve months of age.

Honey and botulism: the reason why babies can not eat honey

The human being consumes honey for thousands of years. It is considered one of the most natural and noble foods, and its benefits are multiple and known. From ancient Egypt to the present day, honey has always been an ingredient in all kinds of recipes, contributing nutrients and sweetening naturally.

However, as a natural product, honey also contains a bacterium, the Clostridium botulinum, that can be highly dangerous for babies under one year of age.

The reason is simple: the intestinal flora of the smallest has not yet reached the appropriate maturity, so that spores of this bacteria can proliferate in their intestines, releasing botulinum toxins, considered one of the most deadly substances known.

This is called infant botulism, a type of botulism that especially affects children under twelve months and can be fatal. However, it does not affect the same way over one year, whose natural defenses have already developed and are able to prevent the proliferation of the bacteria.

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Infant botulism

Botulism is caused by bacteria Clostridium botulinum. In babies it can attack easily, since its immune system is not developed at all.

The Clostridium botilum It is a waft present in nature, on earth. So, can be found in practically all types of food, both of vegetable and animal origin.

This bacterium is organized into spores and It can remain dormant until it finds the ideal conditions to multiply and grow. Especially present in homemade preserves, it prefers environments with little oxygen and does not tolerate, in general, acidic media.

But also, neither can grow in solutions with high concentrations of sugars. For this reason, especially in honey, it tends to remain dormant, waiting for the right conditions to grow.

In this way, when the honey is ingested by an infant under twelve months, the sugar in this nectar is diluted in its gastric juice, which is an environment still not very acidic and where there is little oxygen presence.

Therefore, in this medium, the vaccum finds the ideal conditions to begin to proliferate and grow, releasing the botulinum toxins. Subsequently, through the blood flow, they reach the neuromuscular endings, which can cause infant botulism, a highly dangerous condition that requires immediate hospitalization.

Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Infant botulism affects the nervous system, so that It can present a wide variety of symptoms. Often, they usually appear 12 to 48 hours after contact with the bacteria. The most frequent include:

  • Slow breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Constipation
  • General weakness
  • Weeping
  • Lethargy
  • Reduced arc reflection
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Flaccid eyelids
  • General flabbiness
  • Slow feeding
  • In extreme cases: paralysis of the trunk, arms and legs or paralysis of the respiratory system

Dignostomy and treatment

Given the obvious signs of botulism is essential to take the baby to the pediatrician. Because of its risks, the baby will have to stay hospitalized.

It will be the description of the symptoms provided by the parents that will lead the pediatrician to consider if the infant may suffer from botulism. To confirm, an analysis of the stool of the child will suffice to check the presence of botulinum toxins.

On the other hand, we must bear in mind that infant botulism requires immediate hospitalization. As it has been proven, it affects the nervous system and can lead to respiratory failure. For this reason, it is necessary that the baby is hospitalized, under constant observation.

The success of the treatment always depends on the early diagnosis and the timely administration of the botulinum antitoxin. In the most severe cases, the child may need even assisted breathing or intravenous feeding.

In any case, infant botulism usually subsides after a few weeks or months, and Only in the most extreme cases can the action of the toxin cause death due to respiratory insufficiency.

Can only honey cause infant botulism?

Not only honey can cause infant botulism. In fact, as we indicated earlier, The bacteria responsible for this condition is widely found in nature. Therefore, it is quite difficult to identify the source of the spores and, of course, honey is not the only one.

Indeed, the botulism bacterium can be found even in the earth or in the dust, and be transported by air. In this way, infants can swallow it by inhalation, so it is recommended not to expose the smallest to environments with too much dust or where work is being done to remove land.

Due to the severity of botulism and the difficulty in eliminating the bacteria, It is necessary to be alert to any outbreak of this vaccum to avoid infections and even possible epidemics. In this regard, WHO ensures safety and promotes surveillance, detection, risk assessment and containment of the disease.

Thus, although outbreaks of botulism are uncommon, they are always a public health emergency, and should be established soon if the outbreak is natural, accidental or deliberate. In this way, new cases can be prevented and effective treatment of those affected.


The main measure to avoid botulism due to the intake of honey is not to give this food to the baby. However, it must be borne in mind that the disease can appear by other routes of contagion.

Since there is no vaccine against the bacteria responsible for botulism, it is best to prevent. For this, pediatricians recommend:

  • Never give honey to children under twelve months of age.
  • Like honey, corn syrup can also contain this bacteria, so it should not be offered to babies.
  • Avoid exposure to dirt or dust that may be contaminated.
  • Boil foods that are kept at home at high temperatures (especially homemade preserves).
  • Maintain adequate hygiene

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In short, babies should not eat honey why:

Although it is a sweet food with important nutritional properties, in the small ones the risk of botulism increases. This is because your immune system is not sufficiently developed and, therefore, can not fight the microorganism that causes this disease.

However, we must be attentive and keep in mind that not only honey is responsible for botulism. Thus, following appropriate hygiene guidelines and the recommendations of the experts, we can keep the little ones out of risk.