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Is Honey Suitable For Babies and Infants?

At Just Bee we are always happy to promote the benefits of eating honey and encourage its use. However it's very important to know that honey is not recommended for babies and infants under one year old.

This is the opinion of health professionals and the UK's NHS. There is a single, very serious reason for this advice. In this blog we'll look into that further, understand what could happen if you feed your baby honey and explore some other related topics too. 

Infant Botulism

You many have heard this term before and already know it's the reason we can't give honey to babies, but what exactly does it mean?

Botulism is a type of food poisoning, that while rare, can be life threatening. It can also affect adults, usually as a result of eating other contaminated foods. It's caused by toxins that are produced by clostridium botulinum, a bacteria that is sometimes present in honey. It's important to stress that this bacteria is very easily dealt with in an adult digestive system and the bacteria itself is considered harmless, the same is true for older children. However this is not the case for an underdeveloped digestive system of an infant. In a child under one year old these bacteria can multiply in the stomach and produce poisonous toxins that can be fatal.

It's difficult to say exactly how high the risk of botulism is in an infant from consuming any particular honey but considering the serious nature infant botulism, it is certainly not worth the risk. To keep your baby safe we can only advise, very strongly, that you wait until your child is at least one year old.

Symptoms of Infant Botulism

Symptoms of infant botulism in babies can include breathing issues, weak crying, difficulty feeding  and a lack of facial expression and lethargy. Any or all of these symptoms combined with a general weakness or floppiness are indicators of the illness. The toxins produced by the bacteria are very powerful and attack the nervous system, brain and spinal cord and can cause eventual paralysis.

While infant botulism is very serious and can be fatal if untreated, as long as it's treated in time most people will make a full recovery. If you suspect your infant has botulism, he or she will need to be treated in hospital so don't delay.

If you suspect your baby has eaten honey then contact your midwife, health visitor or doctor immediately. If they are showing any of the symptoms above then you should take them to your nearest A&E or call 999 for an ambulance.

Honey is Sugar

Once your child is at least 1 year old, it’s usually safe for him or her to start eating eat honey. By that point their digestive system will be mature enough to protect against the bacteria that can cause infant botulism. It's worth remembering though, that while honey is a natural product with a lot of benefits, it is sugar and isn't particularly good for your child's young teeth. There are a lot of tastes and flavours for your little ones to enjoy so there no need to rush into giving them honey.

Tooth decay in young children can be a problem so if you do choose to introduce honey into their diet then you might want to limit the amount or how often they have it. Honey on toast as a special 'treat' isn't a bad idea and it's a good idea to drink water afterwards or clean their teeth if possible.

What To Do If  Your Child Swallows a Button Battery

While checking some facts and advise for this blog we stumbled across this brilliant emergency medical use for honey on the website for Alderhey Children's Hospital that we were previously unaware of!

The little flat 'button' batteries that we see in many children's electronic toys and games are very dangerous if swallowed. Doing so can be fatal for children and young people. If you suspect that your child has swallowed a battery then you need to get them to A&E as soon as you can. Call an ambulance if you need to.

Until then the recommendation is that you feed your child (older than 12 months only) 2 teaspoons of honey every 10 minutes. The honey can help to reduce the damage caused to internal tissue by the battery. Other than that, don't give them anything else to eat or drink.

We are still constantly surprised at all the amazing uses for a simple jar of honey, it really can be quite mind boggling!

Final Thoughts

We realise this hasn't be the most 'fun' article we've written but it is an important one. While we wouldn't want to worry people needlessly and we certainly wouldn't want to put people off using the wonderful natural product that honey is, it's very important not to give it to children under one years old because of the serious nature of infant botulism. There will be plenty of time after their first birthday party to introduce your children to the joys of eating Just Bee Honey!

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