Never Give Honey To An Infant

I’ve cared for infants with floppy baby syndrome which is life threatening. They need respiratory support for up to a month. Even though rare, when its your child, the risk was not worth it.
The problem is not botulism, which is the toxin released when the bacteria die, but, rather Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria, itself being established as part of the GI flora.
We are born with a sterile, airless GI system. We establish a normal flora of at least 3 benificial bacteria, over the first 3-6 months of life. . They help in digestion,and O[sub]2[/sub] prodiction, to prevent non- benificial bacteria, like Clostridium botulinum from gaining a foothold.

From this thread I am learning that adults don’t need to worry about botulinum poisoning? :dubious:

The difference is between the bacteria living in an infant’s digestive system and living in a can of soup. The colony in the soup can will produce large amounts of botulism toxin.

mks57 make that bacteria dying in a can of soup. :wink: What makes adults sick is what is produced when the bacteria die. Having a colony of bacteria living in your gut is a different sickness, and apparently infants are especially vunerable to it. picnurse, what about those with compromised immune systems, like with some kind of arthirits? Should they worry more?

People with severely compromised immune systems, like patients undergoing chemo for cancer, are usually on a restricted diet that prohibits raw foods like fruits and vegetables and presumably honey, to prevent the likelihood of infection from bacteria present in or on the food. (I searched for a cite, but can’t figure out search terms that don’t bring up a bunch of quack “diets”.) You can still eat fruits and vegetables, but they have to be cooked.


What Robin said. Unless an immuno-compromised patient has been on a gut sterilization program, they still have their own flora.
Gut sterilization is usually reserved for bone marrow transplants who are treated in a sterile environment (LAF or Laminar Air Flow).
Since the sterile environment doesn’t seem to add much protection, it isn’t used much any more.
Patients I cared for in LAF at Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center had to reintroduce their normal flora over a period of a month or two. A few had problems, but no particular organism was ever isolated.

Patty O’Furniture, you seem to have missed the explainations about the difference between botulism and Clostridium botulinum. The first being a toxin released when the bacteria die, the second, the bacteria itself. Clostridium botulinum is anaerobic. It can’t live in the presence of oxygen.
Honey has the spores of the live bacteria. The swollen can of creamed corn has the gas released from the dead, exploded bacteria bodies.

Adults ingest Clostridium botulinum all the time, but because of our established flora producing oxygen, it can’t grow. If it can’t grow, it can’t release enough toxin to cause illness.

My mother was a little miffed at me when I would not let her give my then 1 month old a little bit of honey as part of a traditional ritual meant to welcome her grandson into the world. I felt that honey (as an empty calorie food) was not worth the admittedly small risk.

Does that mean there are differences between countries? I have never heard about not giving honey to infants - I know we have very strict bio-security here in NZ.
Also - we have a honey research centre - one of the things they do is study honey for it’s healing powers on wounds, my dad was a guinea-pig.
Would this be harmful to children?

C. botulinum isn’t going to do any harm on the skin. It (or its toxin) needs to get into the digestive system to hurt you.

Not true. C. botulinum can infect through a wound, but it’s pretty rare. Because it’s killed in oxygen, it needs either a deep, self-closing wound or a thick layer of oily ointment or honey to keep it anaerobic long enough to infect. When using honey for wound care, one should never use it on a deep puncture wound, and should only use a very thin smear and then cover very lightly with a gauze bandage, so that any C. botulinum spores are exposed to the air and die. There is no reason an infant would be any more susceptible to wound botulism than an adult, however.

From here: