Why is it dangerous? When should honey be included in a young child’s diet? Answers with Dr. Anne Boutemy, pediatrician.
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Following the increase in the number of cases of infant botulism since 2004, the Anses (National Agency for Food Safety, Environmental and Occupational Health) reminds us that “it is absolutely inadvisable to give honey, whatever its origin, to children under one year of age“.
What are the risks to the baby and from what age can babies be given the taste of honey? Answers.
Infant botulism is a rare disease that affects children under one year of age when they ingest spores of the Clostridium Botulinum bacteria, which are found primarily in honey and dust.
Thus released, the botulinum toxin colonizes the intestine, which has no means to defend itself.
Between 6 and 36 hours after the absorption of the honey, several symptoms can appear: constipation, loss of appetite and head control, crying or general weakness.
In some cases, paralysis and signs of respiratory distress may be observed. “Infant botulism is extremely rare, I have never seen it in my entire practice as a pediatrician and I doubt that colleagues of my generation have ever faced it.
However, we must be cautious because infant botulism causes serious neurological disorders and can lead to death if left untreated.
The problem is that there is no curative treatment apart from supportive care, that is, palliative care that includes resuscitation and ventilation,” says Dr. Anne Boutemy, a pediatrician from the Paris region.
The baby cries, gets agitated, suffers from colic and you don’t know what to do to calm him down? That’s no reason to give him honey on your finger or nipple.
Remember that honey is absolutely forbidden in the baby’s diet before he is one year old. “You should never give honey to a baby to soothe him or her because it’s the sugar that has an effect, not the honey.
Rather, we should ask ourselves what is happening to him, try to understand his needs and find a way to reassure him. Sugar is a molecule that acts in the brain.
When we perform an MRI on a patient who has just eaten sugar, we see that the same circuits are activated as when we take opiates.
Sugar has psychoactive effects, so it is a habit that, when it starts at a very young age, is very bad and difficult to eradicate,” warns the specialist.
As honey can be found in certain preparations, you must remain vigilant. “If you have accidentally given your baby honey, don’t panic.
Keep an eye on your child, and if he shows symptoms of botulism, contact your doctor who will tell you how to proceed,” the pediatrician recommends.
Beyond the age of one year, the child’s intestinal system is sufficiently developed to eliminate the botulinum toxin responsible for the disease. Therefore, it’s safe to start giving your baby a taste of honey (starting at 13 months).
Honey provides many amino acids, vitamins and minerals that promote growth and improve muscle development.
“Since honey is very rich in sugar, I recommend giving your baby a little, i.e. no more than a teaspoon a day.
But beware, in my opinion, it is not a food that should be part of children’s daily routine before the age of three, like other sweet products.
On the other hand, honey has unsuspected soothing virtues in benign ENT infections that have been scientifically proven. Therefore, it can be used in this context,” says Dr. Anne Boutemy.
“Honey can contain botulinum toxin in very small doses that a child’s or an adult’s intestinal flora can digest without any difficulty.
But before 12 months of age, the baby does not have this intestinal maturity, which can cause a defect in the digestion of honey and cause signs of botulism, although this occurs very rarely,” explains Dr. Anne Boutemy.
In reality, this pathology is more the prerogative of very old people who consume expired cans.
Although cases of botulism are rare, the official recommendations of the ANSES must be respected.
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