When you become a parent, you hear all kinds of old wive's tales about what you should and shouldn't do. Don't take your baby outside without a hat. Make sure you put your baby to sleep on their back and not their tummy. Little pieces of advice that have been passed down for generations - some of it sound, some of it sort of silly. One of the most common pieces of advice we hear is not to give honey to babies under the age of 12 months. This is one of those that sound silly on the surface, but there's a very good reason for it. Honey of any variety can contain botulism spores. In older kids and adults, these spores are generally harmless. But in young babies, they can be deadly.
The digestive systems of infants can harbor the bacteria that causes botulism, and that bacteria can reproduce and create a toxin that can cause very serious illness. Unfortunately, four babies in Texas have gotten sick with botulism in recent months, after being given pacifiers filled with honey.
The pacifiers that sickened the babies were purchased in Mexico, but they can be found on some websites or purchased in the US. Sometimes, the pacifiers are filled with other sweet substances, like maple or corn syrup. The substances aren't meant to be consumed by the baby. They're used to make the rubber pacifier more pliable and soft. But a small puncture in the rubber can cause the substance to leak out and into the baby's mouth, which appears to be the case in Texas.
The FDA has issued a warning against using pacifiers filled with or dipped in honey (another thing done to make the rubber more pliable). They're urging parents to not purchase or use any pacifiers dipped in or filled with honey and asking parents who've previously purchased one of these pacifiers to discard of it immediately. While the Texas Department of State Health Services does not have a positive test from the pacifiers, they believe strongly that they are to blame for this latest botulism outbreak.
There have been 10 reported cases in Texas so far, including the four babies who were hospitalized. Symptoms of infant botulism include constipation, floppiness, poor feeding, and muscle weakness in the mouth, eyes, and face that can spread to the neck, arms, torso, and legs. If your baby has consumed honey and you suspect botulism, seek medical attention immediately.