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Diet: Why honey can be harmful to infants

Diet: Why honey can be harmful to infants



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Small children should not consume honey

Honey is generally considered healthy and is often used as a natural remedy. However, the bacteria it contains pose a significant health risk for babies. The little ones can develop life-threatening infant botulism as a result of consumption, warns the professional association of pediatricians in a current press release.

Fortunately, infant botulism is a very rare complaint these days, but there are also isolated diseases in this country. In the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is currently warning about the dangers of honey consumption in children under the age of 12 months in the face of several cases. Pacifiers containing honey have been identified as the cause of four diseases in Texas infants, the AAP said.

150 cases of infant botulism in the United States

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explicitly warns parents not to use soothers filled with or soaked with honey. These are often bought online or in Mexico. Parents cite a variety of reasons why they offer honey to babies, including tradition, children's preference, and perceived health benefits (e.g., for constipation or colic), according to the AAP. A total of 150 cases of infant botulism were registered in the United States in 2016. In contrast, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), only three diseases were recorded in Germany in the past year.

Bacteria form toxins in the baby's intestine

Honey is a risk for babies as it is naturally contaminated with spores from neurotoxin-producing clostridia. "Since the intestinal flora of infants is not yet fully developed, clostridial spores that have been ingested can germinate, form toxins and lead to the clinical picture of botulism in infants," explains the RKI. This occurs around ten days after the bacteria have been ingested and brings with it a wide range of symptoms. The first identifiable symptoms in babies include general muscle weakness, dyspnea (breathing problems), constipation (constipation), flaccid paralysis, difficulty swallowing and drinking difficulties, and failure to thrive, reports the RKI.

Intensive medical treatment required

In the case of infant botulism, "the child has difficulty sucking and swallowing, so that saliva runs out of the mouth", explain the BVKJ experts. There was a delayed response to light in the pupils. If there is a suspicion of infant botulism, it is important to seek medical help immediately, since intensive medical treatment may be urgently required. (fp)

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