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Honey Risk Factor for Infant Botulism, SIDS

In January 2009, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) issued a policy statement to endorse 2005 recommendations for preventing SIDS, update parents and health care providers on research related to SIDS, and to provide updated recommendations. 

The 2005 AAP Policy Statement provides eleven recommendations based on research related to SIDS risk factors; all of them pertain to the child’s sleeping environment.  

SIDS Risk From Food

honey-bee-featured.jpgNew research published by the University of Florida Department of Entomology and Nematology in October of 2009 indicates that infant botulism, a rare disease that can lead to varying degrees of paralysis, could also cause SIDS.  

The consumption of honey is a risk factor for infant botulism, and parents are warned not to feed infants under 12 months of age honey.  

Honey can be contaminated with botulism spores, which are found in water, soil, dust, improperly processed foods, and sometimes the air.  In the absence of oxygen, the spores can produce a powerful toxin, which leads to symptoms of poor feeding, respiratory distress, lethargy, constipation, weak cry, droopy eyelids, and reduced muscle tone.

Although infant botulism is rare, with fewer than 100 reported cases per year in the United States, it can result in SIDS.

Preventing SIDS

Until the nature of SIDS is fully understood, complete prevention is impossible; however parents can take the following risks to reduce the risk of their infant dying from SIDS.

Back to Sleep–Infants should be placed on their back every time they sleep.

Use a firm sleep surface–Do not place soft objects such as pillows, comforters, or quilts under a sleeping infant.  A firm crib mattress covered by a sheet is the recommended sleeping surface for infants.

Keep soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib–Pillows, stuffed animals, and other soft objects should be kept out of an infant’s sleeping environment.  Bumper pads used in cribs should be thin, firm, well secured, and not “pillow-like.”  Any sheets or blankets used should be tucked around the crib mattress so the infant’s face is less likely to be covered by bedding.

Do not smoke during pregnancy–epidemiologic studies of SIDS indicate that maternal smoking during pregnancy is a major risk factor.

Keep the infant’s sleeping environment separate but proximate–the risk of SIDS has been shown to be reduced when an infant sleeps in the same room as the mother; however, infants should not sleep in the same bed as a parent or sibling.

Consider giving your infant a pacifier at nap time and bedtime–A reduced risk of SIDS is associated with pacifier use.  

Avoid overheating–Infants should be lightly clothed and the bedroom temperature should be comfortable for a lightly clothed adult.

Avoid commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS.  

Do not use home monitors to reduce the risk of SIDS–Electronic respiratory and cardiac monitors are available to detect cardiorespiratory arrest and are meant for infants who are deemed to have extreme cardiorespiratory instability.

Avoid development of positional plagiocephaly--Encourage “tummy time” when the infant is awake and observed and avoid leaving an infant in car-seat carriers and “bouncers” for long periods of time.

Educate secondary caregivers about the “Back to Sleep” campaign–Child care providers, grandparents, foster parents, babysitters, and others who occasionally babysit should know to place an infant on its back when sleeping.

Avoid feeding infants honey.   

© Food Safety News
  • Tom

    Back sleep theoretically prevents SIDS because it prevents Stage 3 and Stage 4 NREM sleep (AKA Deep Sleep). Deep Sleep is when babies die of SIDS. Deep Sleep is also extremely important for neurocognitive development. What is the impact of reducing Deep Sleep for the first full year of a humans life? We’ve had this Back to Sleep campaign since 1992 and now we have a generation of kids with neurocognitive problems such as autism, etc. “Tummy Time” will do nothing to prevent neurocognitive impairments caused by back sleep.

  • SE Robertson

    Tom – I think your claim has no reserach evidence to back it up. Autism has been around for years and years (genrations and generations, long before the Back to Sleep campaign commenced. The Back to Sleep Campaign has been extremly succesful in reducing infant mortality and does not need people like you to sabotage its success with unfounded claims like yours