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Symptoms and Signs of Botulism

Doctor's Notes on Botulism

The bacterium Clostridium botulinum causes the disease botulism. The bacteria can grow in improperly canned or preserved foods and produce the toxin. Contamination of wounds with the bacteria can also result in botulism. Signs and symptoms of botulism may include some of the following:

  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking (slurred speech)
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred and/or double vision
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Facial weakness on both sides and other neck muscle weakness (are early symptoms)
  • Trouble breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Muscle weakness/paralysis (note that infants may develop a floppy paralysis, lethargy, poor feeding, a weak cry, and constipation)
  • Death

Occasionally, other Clostridium species can cause botulism. Neurotoxin production occurs in favorable environments like improperly prepared home-canned foods. Treatment involves administration of an antitoxin. Immune globulin can treat infants with botulism. Antibiotics also treat wound botulism though they can't treat patients who ingest toxin.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/6/2020


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.