Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Botulism prevention

Botulism prevention
beginning of content

Botulism

Botulism is an illness caused by a toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. The C. botulinum bacteria spores are naturally present in the environment, often living in garden soil. Although botulism is a serious condition, fortunately it is very rare.

How can you get botulism?

You can get botulism in two different ways:

  • Through food – usually honey, home preserves, canned food, meat, seafood and soft cheeses.
  • Through a wound – this is more common in people who work on the land or who use injecting drugs.

There is a type of botulism called infant botulism. In this situation, a child gets the Clostridium botulinum bacteria in their gut, and it produces the toxin from there. Honey sometimes causes this – children under 12 months of age should not be given honey.

You can’t catch botulism from someone else.

Botulism symptoms

The main symptom of botulism is extreme weakness – weakness that is so severe it is hard to open your eyes, hard to speak and hard to have the strength to breathe. It is sometimes fatal.

Adults with botulism can also get diarrhoea and vomiting, a dry mouth and blurred vision.

Babies with botulism can’t tell you how they feel. But it makes it hard for them to cry, to move, to eat and to drink.

Botulism treatment

If you suspect that you or someone you know has botulism, see a doctor as soon as possible or go to your nearest emergency department.

If medical help is sought quickly, treatment can reduce the severity of the condition.

Botulism prevention

Botulism is very rare, but you can reduce the risk further by:

  • not feeding honey to infants
  • breastfeeding
  • taking care when preserving food – the bacterial spores can survive at temperatures of 100 °C, so make sure food is well cooked and containers are thoroughly sterilised
  • throwing away canned food that is past its use-by date, damaged or spoiled
  • covering open wounds when gardening or in contact with soil.

Last reviewed: December 2015

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 21 results

Botulism

Botulism is a rare but serious illness that causes paralysis. Children under the age of 12 months are most at risk of infection. Botulism can occur following the ingestion of contaminated food, soil or dust.

Read more on NSW Health website

Botulism

Botulism is a rare but serious condition caused by toxins (poisons) produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum.

Read more on WA Health website

Risks to your baby of home-made infant formula

Homemade infant formulas can present risks to infants through inadequate nutrition and increased food safety risks.

Read more on WA Health website

Introducing solid food - common questions

Commonly asked questions on introducing solid foods for your baby including what foods could choke my baby and foods to avoid, plus links to trusted resources.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Digestive system

Find health conditions articles related to the digestive system.

Read more on WA Health website

Botox injections - myDr.com.au

Botox injections are used as a treatment for wrinkles, crows feet and facial lines, and also for certain medical conditions.

Read more on myDr website

Myasthenia gravis - myDr.com.au

Myasthenia gravis is a chronic muscle disease that produces weakness and abnormally rapid fatigue of the voluntary muscles.

Read more on myDr website

Parvovirus B19 infection (fifth disease, slapped cheek, slapped face, erythema infectiosum) - including symptoms, treatment and prevention :: SA Health

Parvovirus B19 infection (fifth disease, slapped cheek, slapped face, erythema infectiosum) is a mild illness but may be transmitted to the foetus

Read more on SA Health website

Viral meningitis - including symptoms, treatment and prevention :: SA Health

Viral meningitis is an infection of the covering of the spinal cord and brain caused by a variety of viruses, most often gastroenteritis.

Read more on SA Health website

Mumps - including symptoms, treatment and prevention :: SA Health

Mumps is most common in children and adolescents and is spread by mucous membranes, saliva and droplets from the nose and throat

Read more on SA Health website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback