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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Botulism: Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, and Types

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Botulism is a very serious disease that is very rare and become quite complicated if not treated on time. It is caused by the toxin that is gotten from the bacteria known as “clostridium botulium”. There are three main types by which botulism can be classified and they include;

1. Foodborne botulism

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This is the kind of botulism that is caused from the bacteria clostriduim botulinum which are found in canned foods. These kind of bacterias are very resistant and can still survive in an environment which has little or no allowance for oxygen.

2. Wound-borne botulism

This is the kind of botulism that is gotten as a result of these bacteria infesting an open wound. Once this bacteria find their way to a cut, they can cause an infection which may trigger the release of these toxin.

3. Infant botulism

This is the most commonly seen form of botulism. This kingdom botulism begins immediately after the clostriduim botulinum spores begins to grow within the baby’s intestinal tract. It mostly occurs in babies who are found within the ages of 2months-8 months old.

Every type of botulism is considered very serious and fatal, which needs urgent medical assistance if diagnosed.

Causes of botulism

The causes of botulism depends on the the type of botulism that is involved.

1. Food botulism

The major cause of food botulism is canned foods most especially those which have low acidic contents. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, and fish which have been stored in airtight cans are typical causes of food botulism.

Also, this kind of disease have been seen to originate from foods such as spicy peppers, backed potatoes that are wrapped in foil papers, and oils which contain garlic.

Eating this types of food which contain this toxin will cause an interference with communication between nerve conductions and the muscles of the body causing instant paralysis.

2. Wound botulism

This occurs when clostriduim botulism enters into an open wound. This injury may be one you are aware of or one you aren’t aware of. When the bacteria enters into the wound, because they can thrive in such environments, they tend to multiply and hereby cause the release of the toxin into the blood.

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In recent times, research has discovered that people who have been seen to share heroine needles. Heroine has been discovered to contain some spores of this kind of bacteria within it. So injecting heroine into your blood increases your chances of getting a strain of C. Bolutinum.

For those who especially inject black tar heroine, they are under severe risk of this disease.

3. Infant Botulism

This is most common to babies and they get this bacteria after ingesting several spores of bacteria which finds a place in their intestines, breed,grow and start creating toxins. For babies, the source of this kind of botulism may be honey but for most, it is contacted upon severe exposure to the soil.

This may occur of your child at the playground may happen to ingest sand or any soil content. This will cause several spores of bacteria to enter the babies system and hereby cause the production of toxin in it.

Health benefits of botulinum toxin

You may be wondering how come there are health benefits to such a harmful organism that causes the release of toxin. However, there are circumstances in hitch the paralyzing effect caused by the toxin produced from C. Bolutinum is actually needed.

The toxin derived from botulism sometimes is added during the production of some facial creams. This has been used to prevent facial wrinkles because the toxin has helped to paralyze some facial muscles hence preventing their contraction.

It has also been used for medical purposes such as in the treatments of eye spasms and severe headaches such as migraines. There have, however, been a record of cases of severe side effects although they are records of unusually rare occurrences.

The side effects may include severe muscle paralysis which may transcend beyond the site of treatment, and sometimes total face paralysis if not properly applied.

Symptoms of botulism

Symptoms of botulism also varies among the various types of botulism available.

Food Botulism

The symptoms of food botulism usually begins between the first 12-36 hours after the ingestion of the contaminated food. Depending on the amount of contaminated food or drink ingested, the signs may last for a couple of days to weeks.

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The patient who has food botulism will experience the following symptoms:

  1. Difficulties when swallowing or speaking.
  2. Dry mouth
  3. Facial muscle weakness which can be experienced on both sides of the face
  4. Blurred vision and/or double vision.
  5. Drooping eyes.
  6. Difficulties in breathing
  7. Nausea, vomiting and severe abdominal pains.
  8. Paralysis of some muscles in the body.

Wound botulism

The signs of wound botulism starts about 10 days after the bacteria has entered into the body through the puncture site. Symptoms of wound botulism includes:

  1. Difficulties in speaking and/or swallowing
  2. Trouble in breathing
  3. Facial weakness due to the paralysis of facial muscles which will be experienced throughout the entire face
  4. Paralysis
  5. Blurred or double vision
  6. Drooping eyes
  7. The wound may appear red and inflamed

Infant botulism

If the source of the disease is related to food, then the child may experience symptoms between the first 18-36 hours after the toxin has entered the body. Symptoms include:

  1. Severe constipation. This is usually the initial sign the parent should notice.
  2. Staggering or floppy weakness due to paralysis of the muscles of the lower limbs
  3. Trouble controlling head movements. This is due to paralysis of the neck muscles
  4. Weak cries.
  5. The child will become easily irritable.
  6. Drooling due to paralysis of the facial and mouth muscles
  7. Drooping eyes
  8. Severe fatigue
  9. Difficulties in suckling
  10. Paralysis


Complications of this disease can affects the general body and this is because of the muscle paralysis that it causes. Complications may include

  1. Inability to breath due to paralysis of the muscles that aids in breathing. This could immediately cause the death of the patient
  2. Difficulties in speech and swallowing
  3. Long lasting body weakness
  4. Shortness of breath


  1. Always use proper techniques when it comes to the canning of food.
  2. Try to boil your foods before serving for at least 10 minutes.
  3. If you notice that the preserved food is swelling or is spoilt, do not eat. However, the taste and smell of a food might not necessarily indicate the presence of the bacteria. This is because some don’t alter the smell or taste but they may be present in the food.
  4. Store oils and foods that contain garlic or other herbs inside the refrigerator.
  5. For a child in the case of infant botulism, avoid giving your babies honey most especially children who are less than a year.
  6. To avoid wound botulism, avoid injecting or using recreational or street drugs.

If you suspect that you or your infant has botulism, immediately see the doctor.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker
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