Why You Need to Be Aware of Botulism

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You have probably heard of the word “botulism” when you tried Botox injections at your dermatologist in Singapore, but did you know that exposure to certain amounts of the toxin can cause serious complications? You might want to think twice about Botox injections after this.

Where do you get it?

Botulism is an emergency condition caused by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. It can be acquired in different ways, but the most common forms are foodborne botulism, wound botulism, and infant botulism. Food botulism is the most common of the three and the usual sources are home-canned fruits or vegetables, honey, corn syrup, improperly canned commercial food, fermented fish, herb-infused oils, cheese sauce, bottled garlic, canned food with low acid content, foiled baked potatoes, and any food that has been placed in warm containers for a long time.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms are not caused by the bacterium itself but by the toxin that it releases. Four types of these bacterium can cause botulism in humans. Foodborne botulism can lead to weakness, vertigo, fatigue, blurred vision, dry mouth, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, abdominal swelling, and difficulty swallowing and speaking. Wound botulism can cause the following symptoms: drooping eyelids, trouble breathing, facial weakness, double or blurred vision, difficulty swallowing or speaking, and paralysis. Infant botulism can cause the following: irritability, tiredness, drooping eyelids, floppy movements, constipation, drooling, difficulty feeding, and paralysis.

Regardless of the type of botulism, these are all considered emergency cases, so take the person to the nearest hospital as soon as the above symptoms show.

What are its types?

Foodborne botulism comes from the bacteria in food that are usually starved of oxygen, which is why there are cases of botulism in a few people who consume canned food.  The signs usually appear within 12 to 36 hours after consumption. Wound botulism is caused by the exposure to the bacteria through open wounds. The symptoms, however, will not appear until ten days after the toxin is released. Infant botulism on the other hand is usually caused by food contaminated with bacteria. Infants as young as 2 months who consume contaminated food will have spores in their intestinal tract. Symptoms usually show up with 18 to 36 hours after exposure.

How is it treated?

Once taken to the hospital, a culture of the stool, food, or wound will recommend the presence of the toxin to rule out other conditions like stroke. Antitoxin is then administered as soon as possible, but for severe cases mechanical ventilation is required. If botulism is caused by an untreated wound, antibiotics will be required, but only if the doctors are sure it is not caused by other types of botulism. Severe cases will take months to recover and some will need rehabilitation for speech and eating.

Can it be prevented?

Foodborne botulism can be prevented by avoiding low-acid canned food, especially those that were made at home. Treat wounds immediately and dress them daily to avoid wound botulism. Wounds that do not heal quickly should be examined by a doctor. As for infant botulism, avoid feeding the baby honey until 12 months old.

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