The Texas Department of State Health Services is warning parents and other adults not to give babies pacifiers containing honey after four babies were treated for botulism in Texas. Each infant had been given a honey-containing pacifier purchased in Mexico.
The four illnesses occurred from mid-August to the end of October and caused all four babies to be hospitalized for life-saving treatment. The unrelated infants are residents of West Texas, North Texas and South Texas.
Botulism is a serious illness caused by a toxin that attacks the body’s nerves and can cause difficulty breathing, paralysis and even death. Honey may contain bacteria that produce the toxin in the intestine of babies that eat it. By the time children get to be 12 months old, they’ve developed enough other types of bacteria in their digestive tract to prevent the botulism bacteria from growing and producing toxin.
DSHS today also issued a health alert asking health care providers to look out for cases of infant botulism and to remind parents not to let babies eat honey. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics have long advised that children under 12 months old should not consume honey.
Honey-filled pacifiers are not common in the United States but may be available in some specialty stores and through online retailers. Most aren’t designed for the honey to be consumed, but some have a small hole so a child could eat the honey, or the pacifier could accidentally rupture or leak. Parents should also avoid pacifiers containing any other food substance, because they could also pose a risk of botulism.
Texas has had seven to eight cases of infant botulism per year in recent years. Ten confirmed or suspected cases have been reported in 2018. Additional information on botulism is available on the DSHS website.