What are the symptoms of botulism?
If you or someone you know if suffering from this particular infection, then you can expect to see a variety of symptoms spring up as a result, including many of the following:
- Loss of strength throughout the body
- Difficulty in speaking and also in swallowing
- Dehydration, especially in the mouth and throat
- Vision impairments such as double or blurred vision
In infants, the symptoms are slightly different, and while they may include some of the above symptoms, there are also a few that are exclusive to infant botulism:
- Lack of energy and power. This may be prominently displayed if the infant lacks the energy to cry or make any form of exaggerated emotion.
- Loss of their appetite.
How long will it before I begin to notice any symptoms arising in me or someone I know?
In the case of infection due to food consumption, it will likely take around 10-35 hours after consuming the infected food. On the other hand, contracting botulism through open wounds, lesions etc, it may take up to a week or two to notice any effects of botulism.
In infants, the symptoms may take from around 4 days all the way up to a month to appear and have any serious impact. The cause of this lengthy wait to notice any symptoms is because the bacteria needs time to multiply and grow (known commonly as incubation) and to spread throughout the body to have any lasting impact.
What are the causes of botulism?
Bacteria produce a toxin when inside the body which infects the body and then goes on to produce many of the symptoms discussed above. If this infection is not treated in a certain amount of time, the symptoms may grow more serious, leading to cases of paralysis in the limbs and also in the chest muscles, leading to the inability to breathe in some patients, thus causing fatalities.
Botulism can be contracted through either infected food being consumed, or through open wounds. It is important to note that botulism cannot be transferred from person to person.
How is botulism usually diagnosed?
The organisms in botulism infections can be discovered in faeces samples and also lymph, a fluid found in blood. Doctors or medical professionals may also test spinal fluids, or perform brain scans to measure activity in the brain and also in the muscles.
Okay, now I know how it is diagnosed, how will botulism be treated?
Botulism treatment only begins after the diagnosis has been fully completed, and it has been confirmed as botulism. It is vitally important to catch botulism in its early stages to prevent any serious illness and permanent side effects from occurring. Both open wound infection and also infection through food consumption are treatable through the use of anti-toxing drugs. Note however, that these drugs do not cure any impact that botulism has already had on the body; instead, they prevent the toxins from acting any further and causing any further harm to the patient’s body.
Infants are not usually prescribed with these drugs, although there have been some cases where these anti-toxin drugs have been used.
If the case of botulism is so far along that the patient is having trouble breathing, then the doctor or medical professional will likely resort to injection treatment, a more effective and drastic method of treating the infection. They will also assist the patient’s breathing using mechanical equipment to aid the lungs. They will also put the patient on a prescription of antibiotics to rid the body of the toxins in the gut and intestines very quickly.
In the cases where botulism has been treated successfully, it may take a while for the body to fully heal, especially if the patient has suffered from botulism for a long time. However, in some cases when the botulism has progressed for a long time, the sufferer may never fully heal and may be permanently paralysed or have to be assisted with breathing for the rest of their lives. Also, paralysis from botulism can lead to further complications such as pneumonia.
How can I prevent botulism?
Ensure all your food is stored and contained correctly; this means making sure all your cans are sealed correctly, and are undamaged. A bent or broken can can easily be infected with bacteria and can lead to botulism very quickly.
You should also keep strict hygiene routines, ensuring any open wounds are cleaned carefully and correctly, to ensure minimal risk of bacterial infection.
In the case of infant botulism, avoid giving infants any honey or corn syrup based products as these tend to be the most easily contaminated products.
Botulism is a rare disease, but it CAN be fatal, so take all the necessary precautions in order to minimise the risk of infection to you or someone you know.