More than 76 million people in the U.S are affected by food borne illnesses every year and foodborne botulism or botulism food poisoning is the most serious types of all the other illnesses. Clostridium botulinum is a bacterium that releases toxins which causes this condition. Three common types of botulism caused by the clostridium botulinum include:

  • Foodborne botulism or botulism food poisoning: The bacteria that produce toxins and causes this disease survives in environments that have less oxygen like canned foods.
  • Wound botulism: If these bacteria penetrate into the wound, it can cause serious infection that result from production of toxins.
  • Infant botulism: This type of botulism is commonly seen and begins after the bacterial spores of Clostridium botulinum takes host in the intestinal tracts of babies. It is seen in babies that lie in the age group of 2 to 8 months.

Foodborne Botulism or Botulism Food Poisoning

All the above mentioned types can be deadly and can be counted as medical emergencies.

The symptoms of foodborne botulism or botulism food poisoning begin to show only after 12 to 36 hours after the contaminated food has been consumed even though it can also take less than six hours and even eight long days for the symptoms to develop. The initial signs may be related to gastrointestinal health like stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting. In this kind of botulism, the symptoms may later affect the nervous system.

Neurological Symptoms of Food borne Botulism or Botulism Food Poisoning

Neurological symptoms increase when the clostridium botulinum bacteria releases toxins that spread in the body. The toxins first attack the nerves that surround the skull and when left untreated, it will begin affecting the nerves that control muscles of legs, arms as well as facilitate breathing. In foodborne botulism or botulism food poisoning following neurological symptoms may be shown:

  • Problems with vision like drooping eyelids, blurred vision and double vision.
  • Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).
  • Difficulties in speech (dysarthria).
  • Initial weakness in the facial muscles that may cause paralysis which will spread to the rest of the body.
  • Difficulties in breathing that may cause respiratory failure and even death.

Causes of Foodborne Botulism or Botulism Food Poisoning

Foodborne botulism or botulism food poisoning can be caused from home canned foods that have a low acid content like beets, corn and green beans. In Alaska, this illness was reported from consuming fermented seafood. Apart from this, infused garlic oil, potatoes baked in foil wraps and chili peppers can also cause foodborne botulism. When you eat foods that contain toxins, it can hamper functioning of nerves and cause paralysis.

Symptoms of Foodborne Botulism or Botulism Food Poisoning

The body begins to show the signs and symptoms within 12 to 36 hours once the toxin has entered the body. The duration for the symptoms to show may vary considering the quantity of toxins that have been ingested so far.

Following are the symptoms and signs of foodborne botulism or botulism food poisoning.

  • Difficulty in speaking or swallowing
  • Dry mouth
  • Facial weakness on either sides
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Paralysis
  • Breathing problems
  • Nausea,abdominal cramps and vomiting.

When to Visit the Doctor for Foodborne Botulism or Botulism Food Poisoning?

If you suspect the symptoms of foodborne botulism or botulism food poisoning, it is advisable to seek medical care at the earliest. When this is done, the chances of survival increases and it also lessens the complications.

When you seek proper medical assistance, the health care centers may also be able to restrict others from eating contaminated food.

Tests to Diagnose Foodborne Botulism or Botulism Food Poisoning

Foodborne botulism or botulism food poisoning diagnosis will begin with the inspection of signs of paralysis or weakness in muscles which will be done by a doctor. He or she will also try to know the type of foods that you have consumed recently or if you had gained exposure to bacteria through any wound.

Evidence for toxins will be collected via blood, vomit and stool analysis which will generate results for foodborne botulism.

Treatment for Foodborne Botulism or Botulism Food Poisoning

In some cases of foodborne botulism or botulism food poisoning, the medical practitioner may induce bowel movements or vomiting via medications to clear the digestive tracts. The infected tissues in the wounds may be removed surgically if the botulism is caused due to wounds.

Antitoxin for Foodborne Botulism or Botulism Food Poisoning

If an early diagnosis of foodborne botulism or botulism food poisoning is done, antitoxin injection can help in reducing the complications and its associated risks. The antitoxin attaches to the toxin and keeps the nerves from being damaged from the harmful toxin.

However, the damages that have already been done cannot be reversed by the antitoxins. Luckily, the nerves that are damaged will eventually regenerate. Most people are able to recover completely but some may take months and longer rehabilitation therapy.

Botulism immune globulin is a type of antitoxin that is used for treating infants.

Breathing Devices for Foodborne Botulism or Botulism Food Poisoning

Breathing devices can help with foodborne botulism or botulism food poisoning. If you have any breathing troubles, a medical ventilator may be needed to reduce the effects of toxins on the body. The tube that is inserted through mouth or nose will help the air to pass into the airway and supply sufficient oxygen to the lungs.

Rehabilitation for Foodborne Botulism or Botulism Food Poisoning

The functions that are affected which include swallowing and speech can be improved by taking therapy as you begin to recover from foodborne botulism or botulism food poisoning.

Complications for Foodborne Botulism or Botulism Food Poisoning

Botulinum toxin has the ability to give rise to many complications as it damages the nerves that are responsible for muscle control. The most sudden danger is that a person can suffer from breathlessness and this is a common reason for death in sufferers of foodborne botulism or botulism food poisoning.

The below-mentioned complications may need rehabilitation therapy as well for foodborne botulism or botulism food poisoning:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty in speaking
  • Long-lasting weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble swallowing.

Prevention of Foodborne Botulism or Botulism Food Poisoning

Use better canning techniques to prevent foodborne botulism or botulism food poisoning. Make sure to employ proper methods so that the germs in the canned foods are completely destroyed:

  • Pressure cook the canned foods at 250F for 20 to 60 minutes, based on the type of food that you are using.
  • Boil the foods for at least 10 minutes before it is served.

Make and store food safely:

  • Do not consume canned food if the vessel seems bulging or there is a foul smell coming out of it. Smell or taste will not detect foodborne botulism or botulism food poisoning as most strains do not let the food taste bad or smell different.
  • If you have foil-wrapped potatoes, be sure to consume it hot or keep them refrigerated until you eat them and do not keep them at room temperature.
  • Keep garlic or herb infused oils in the refrigerator.

Lifestyle Changes for Foodborne Botulism or Botulism Food Poisoning

All the foods that are preserved and canned should be prepared only after necessary processing is done. Contamination of food can be reduced by following proper hygiene. People who opt to eat canned foods that are made at home should consider boiling it for at least 10 minutes as the toxins get destroyed at high temperatures. Cans that have bulging lids should be discarded without smelling or tasting the food that is stored in it.

  • Make sure to heat the canned foods for 10 minutes to more than 100°C to destroy the toxins.
  • Cook the food for 30 minutes or more at a temperature of 79.9°C so that the toxins are completely destroyed.
  • Do not store or eat foods that have been cooked and kept in room temperature for more than 4 hours.
  • Avoid eating baked potatoes that are foil wrapped and have not been refrigerated after cooking. Do not store chopped onions or garlic infused oils at room temperature.
  • Frequently stir the canned food while boiling it for 10 minutes prior consumption.
  • Avoid feeding honey to infants that are not a year old.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: March 29, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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