Doctor's grim warning to parents after pantry staple almost kills baby

Infants under 12 months of age are most at risk, the doctor warns.

A doctor has issued a stark warning to parents about giving babies honey after a two-month-old baby was hospitalised with a little-known condition that caused seizures and almost claimed his life.

In his "New Fear Unlocked" TikTok series, which highlights real medical horror stories, Dr Samuel Choudhury said the boy was born with no health problems but deteriorated fast and was admitted to the ICU where doctors discussed "end of life care" with his distraught parents.

In his post, which contains the warning: "Do not give this to infants!", the Singaporean GP said the boy's parents had noticed he wasn't breastfeeding as well as usual and after a week, they took him to a doctor.

Still from TikToker's video about baby botulism
A doctor has revealed how a simple mistake almost cost a baby's life. Source: TikTok/@skingapore

Mystery symptoms

By this point, the baby had developed poor muscle tone and was admitted to hospital where he developed seizures, a chest infection and was having difficulty breathing.

"The medical team ran lots of tests but couldn't find the underlying problem," Dr Choudhury said. "His condition just kept getting worse to the extent he was admitted to the ICU and the team was discussing end-of-life care with his parents."

Eventually, the medical team sent the boy's poo for testing and discovered traces of Clostridium botulinum, a bacteria which produces a toxin that paralyses muscle — the same substance used in Botox.

Dangerous mistake

Dr Choudhury said doctors found that the boy's dummy had been laced with honey, which should not be given to babies under 12 months old. "You see, about six to 10 per cent of honey have been found to contain spores of this bacteria," the popular TikToker continued.

"And while nothing happens to us (adults) when we take honey, infants below the age of one don't really have a very well-developed gut. So, the spores germinate, colonise, reproduce and wreak havoc in infants, resulting in infantile botulism."

Honey dipper sitting on top of jar full of honey
Honey can pose a serious risk to babies in their first year of life. Source: Getty

Paralysis can be fatal

According to NSW Health, infant botulism can cause constipation, loss of appetite, weak feeding, weak cry, and muscle weakness including poor head control.

"Early symptoms of food-borne botulism include weakness, marked fatigue and vertigo usually followed by blurred vision, dry mouth and difficulty swallowing," a NSW Health spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia. "Nausea and vomiting may also occur."

Symptoms can progress to paralysis of the arm muscles and can stretch down the body towards legs, while paralysis of breathing muscles can be fatal.

What parents should know

The spores that cause botulism can be found in dust, soil and raw and processed honey, while food-borne botulism occurs when Clostridium botulinum grows and produces toxins in food that isn't sufficiently heated.

"This is more likely to occur with fermented, salted or smoked fish or meat products and home-canned or bottled vegetables and fruit," NSW Health added.

Thankfully, the baby in this case made a full recovery after spending a month in hospital and being treated with an antitoxin.

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