Botulism, also known as Botulinus intoxication, is a rare, serious illness that usually causes paralysis. It is caused by botulinum toxin, essentially metabolic waste, produced within anaerobic (lack of oxygen) conditions by Clostridium botulinum. This illness affects not just humans, but also many other mammals, fish and birds.
- 1 What is the cause of botulism?
- 2 How can you tell when someone has Botulism? What are the symptoms?
- 3 When should I seek medical assistance?
- 4 If I think it’s Botulism, how will the doctor diagnose it?
- 5 What major effects and complications with having botulism have on me and my body?
- 6 How is botulism treated?
What is the cause of botulism?
Contaminated food, such as spoiled can food contains harmful bacteria that enters the body in the food, which then causes problems in the nerve system, eventually leading
to paralysis. The common types of food which if spoiled, can lead to botulism are such things as beets, corn or beans of any type. Baked potatoes and also chilli peppers are also foods commonly infected by the botulinum toxin.
An bacteria by the name of Clostridium can enter open wounders, and can them multiply in the warmth and dampness of the human body, leading to the production of the botulinum toxin. This form of infection is very common in heroin addicts due to the high risk of infection on the needles used to inject it.
Finally, infants are incredibly susceptible to botulism if they have a chance of coming into contact with Clostridium spores. In infants, the infection is usually contained in their intestines, and the contaminated food usually turns out to be such things as corn cyrup, honey and surprisingly, contaminated mud or soil.
How can you tell when someone has Botulism? What are the symptoms?
As botulism is usually contracted by the intake of undercooked food, the botulism symptoms that I will shortly list usually begin to appear at around 10-35 hours after the consumption of said food. Infant botulism is exactly the same, and occurs in around the same time span.
However, it is important to note that symptoms of botulism in wounds begin after around 8-10 days after the first initial contact.
Here is a short list of symptoms that will begin to show after the previously mentioned time spans, in accordance with botulism transmitted through open wounds and food consumption:
- Respiratory problems
- Vomiting and nausea
- Stomach pains and abdominal cramps
- Facial pain and muscle weakness
- Difficulty in speaking or swallowing
Below are the symptoms that will be displayed by infants as a result of them contracting infant botulism:
- The first initial symptom of infant botulism will mostly likely be constipation
- Difficulty in feeding and suckling(breastfeeding)
- Struggle to keep eyes open
- Muscle disorders and also difficulty in maintaining head position
- General tiredness and fatigue
When should I seek medical assistance?
It may sound very obvious to some of you, but the best time to seek medical advice is as soon as possible if you suspect a case of botulism, normal or infant. The sooner it is diagnosed and treated, the higher the chances of survival for the patient. If it is a case of food from a major food outlet (perhaps a school dinner, or fast food place), then be sure to contact them and let them know, as you may aid in preventing further cases of botulism and possible fatalities.
If I think it’s Botulism, how will the doctor diagnose it?
When doctors or medical professional look for signs of botulism in their diagnosis, they look for several things, starting by looking for any signs of paralysis or muscle weakness. They may query you or the patient about any food that has been consumed during the past few days or so. On top of that, they may ask if you have been in seriously contaminated environments, developing the possibility that you or the patient may have contracted botulism through open wounds in the form of bacterial spores.
In the case of infant botulism, the doctor or medical professional may ask if the infant has eaten anything containing corn syrup or honey recently. They may then ask if there have been any signs of constipation or fatigue.
Continuing on with the diagnosis, they may then analyse faeces/vomit samples, in order to detect any presence of the toxin which leads to botulism. It is advisable to get this diagnosis done by a professional, reputable doctor as they will usually quickly diagnose it as botulism if it is the case, and in the case of botulism, every second counts.
What major effects and complications with having botulism have on me and my body?
The most prominent effects that botulism can have on your body is mostly to do with it paralysing and muscular effects; botulism can cause your chest muscles to fail and/or to become paralysed, meaning the sufferer loses the ability to breathe and as a result may suffer very serious consequences.
How is botulism treated?
If botulism is contracted through food consumption, then your doctor or medical professional will usually administer drugs that stimulate movement in your bowels, and also to aid your body in vomiting, to essentially cleanse your bowels and digestive system of the toxins causing the trouble.
If however botulism is contracted by infection of an open wound, the doctor/medical professional may remove the infection through the use of surgery to remove tissue.
There is such a thing as botulism antitoxin, which whether in the case of infection through food consumption or through open wound infection, can be administered to patients to reduce complications of side-effects such as paralysis and/or muscle failure.
However, the antitoxin can not be administered to young suffers as in the case of infants because it doesn’t prevent the side effects from the infection contained in the digestive tract.
In modern health care, we now tend to run tests on some specific immunoglobulin which seems to have a significant effect on reducing the length and also the seriousness of the disease and its symptoms.
If the case of botulism is very serious, or far along into the time of infection, doctors and medical professionals may resort to using mechanical ventilation in order to keep the patient breathing, and helping the lungs to keep working and performing their functions in order to keep the patient alive until the toxin has been removed.
Are there things I or someone who has suffered from botulism will have to do after being cured of botulism?
Yes. Because of botulism’s severe effect on speech and breathing, you may have to go to specialists in order to regain the abilities of breathing properly and also the ability to speak.
I’ve not yet contracted botulism. How can I prevent me or my child from ever doing so?
There are several things you can do in order to prevent you, or someone you know from ever contracting botulism. Most of them are very simple and easy things to do, as you will now find out:
Conserve your food properly; this means store in the right environments. Most, if not all of your food packaging should state how and where food should be stored.
Cook the food sufficiently. This means boiling things in saucers etc sufficiently, to ensure they are cooked fully. Severe heat destroys the harmful botulism causing bacteria.
If packaging, such as cans are already open or have been for a significant length of time, then throw it away, as the food is probably ruined, and could have harmful effects if consumed.
Other things to keep in mind, especially in the case of infants, is to avoid giving them any honey or corn syrup based products if they are under the age of one, and to also treat open wounds carefully and using the correct methods to ensure they are clear from infections and bacteria.