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Everything parents should know about preventing baby food poisoning

Now that your baby is older, you can finally start introducing new foods into their diet! But as they get exposed to more foods, their risk for food poisoning can also increases. Here’s how to prevent and treat baby food poisoning.

As your baby gets older and starts eating new foods, they can become more susceptible to stomach bugs. Baby food poisoning, just as in adults, happens when they eat food or drink water that is tainted with toxins produced by bacteria, viruses or parasites. Babies and children up to the age of five are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning because their immune system is still learning how to fight off germs. Their stomach doesn’t have enough acid to kill off these germs. Recognizing baby food poisoning symptoms and knowing when to call the doctor is important to safeguard your little one.

Also read The Ultimate Indian Baby Food Chart for 0-12 Months.

How does a baby get food poisoning? 

As parents, we take extra care to keep our baby safe from harmful germs.  We clean and sanitize our baby’s feeding bottles and prepare food for them safely and naturally. Despite our best efforts, babies can still contract food poisoning. This could be because the water used to prepare their food is contaminated or the food we prepare for them becomes spoiled because it hasn’t been stored properly. Germs can quickly multiply in baby formula or milk and can cause food poisoning.

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As babies get bigger they start to eat out at restaurants along with their parents or they might go to playschool. While parents are careful about what they feed their children at home, it is more difficult to monitor the food at restaurants or in schools. While it is difficult to completely protect your child from foodborne illnesses, simple precautions can easily be taken.

What are the common baby food poisoning symptoms?

Symptoms of food poisoning can occur 20 minutes to 2 days after eating contaminated foods. The usual signs of baby food poisoning are:

  • Nausea
  • Bouts of vomiting
  • Diarrhoea or an upset stomach
  • Fever
  • Cramps or pain in the stomach
  • Blood in the stool 

The last symptom, blood in the stool, is potentially dangerous as it can be caused by virulent bacteria like E.coli or salmonella. In very young babies, salmonella can enter into the bloodstream and can have very serious effects. Infant botulism is another serious condition caused by spores of clostridium botulinum that enter into the baby’s intestine and multiply, symptoms of which are constipation, droopy eyelids and difficulty in swallowing. This is one of the reasons why parents are advised not to give young babies honey or any canned food as they are the main culprits for infant botulism.

Baby food poisoning treatment

If your baby is experiencing baby food poisoning symptoms, you should be alert for any signs of dehydration. In babies, signs of dehydration are the lack of tears or going for 6 hours without passing urine. A parched mouth is also a sign that your baby is dehydrated. If you suspect that your baby is dehydrated, you should inform your pediatrician immediately. 

Also read our blog on 9 Most Likely Reasons for Constipation in Babies and Toddlers.

If it is a case of mild food poisoning, your baby should recover within a day or two. However, if your child does not show improvement after 24 hours, or has a temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit then you must consult your child’s physician. Depending upon the severity of their condition, your paediatrician might prescribe a course of antibiotics for baby food poisoning treatment. Do not treat your baby by yourself as this can have harmful consequences. Medicines to stop diarrhoea, for instance, can prevent your baby’s system from getting rid of all the germs. 

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Avoid foods for the first few hours after your baby first becomes ill as they will not be able to keep anything down. When they are ready to eat, start off with something bland and ensure that it is not oily. Dry crackers, toast and rice are a good start. Ensure that your child is well hydrated as this can help them feel better.

Small babies, who are still breastfeeding, have the safest food in the form of their mother’s milk. Do not give babies cow’s milk when they are sick. Small amounts of formula milk, however, are generally safe for infants. 

When can my baby go back to a normal diet?

Typically, children should be back to their normal diet within 2 days. When vomiting and diarrhoea stop, they will start feeling hungry again. Follow the cues your baby gives you as they will let you know when they want to start eating regular food. Electrolytes can be stopped as soon as the baby food poisoning symptoms get better. Your baby’s diet should include regular carbohydrates such as rice and cereals, lean meat, curds, fruits and vegetables. Avoid fatty foods, however, for the first few days after they recover.

Introducing your child to their regular diet as soon as possible will allow essential nutrients to return to their system and help them fight off infections. 

While it is hard to see your child go through a bout of food poisoning, keep in mind that food-borne illnesses are self-limiting and your child will bounce back to their normal self soon. To get more advice on treating your child’s food poisoning, download the mfine app and book a consultation with the city’s top pediatricians.

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