Foodborne botulism

Signs and symptoms of foodborne botulism typically begin between 18 and 36 hours after the toxin gets into your body, but can range from a few hours to several days, depending on the amount of toxin ingested. Signs and symptoms of foodborne botulism include:

  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • Dry mouth
  • Facial weakness on both sides of the face
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Trouble breathing
  • Nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps
  • Paralysis

Wound botulism

Most people who develop wound botulism inject drugs several times a day, so it's difficult to determine how long it takes for signs and symptoms to develop after the toxin enters the body. Most common in people who inject black tar heroin, wound botulism signs and symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • Facial weakness on both sides of the face
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Trouble breathing
  • Paralysis

Infant botulism

If infant botulism is related to food, such as honey, problems generally will begin within 18 to 36 hours after the toxin enters the baby's body. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Constipation (often the first sign)
  • Floppy movements due to muscle weakness and trouble controlling the head
  • Weak cry
  • Irritability
  • Drooling
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty sucking or feeding
  • Paralysis

Certain signs and symptoms usually are absent with botulism, including no elevation in blood pressure or heart rate, no confusion, and no fever. However, fever is sometimes present with wound botulism.

When to see a doctor

Seek urgent medical care if you suspect that you have botulism. Early treatment increases your chances of survival. Seeking medical care promptly may also serve to alert public health authorities. They can keep other people from eating contaminated food.

Jul. 19, 2012