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The symptoms of botulism are:

Patient in hospital bed with doctor and family
  • double vision
  • blurred vision
  • drooping eyelids
  • slurred speech
  • difficulty swallowing
  • a thick-feeling tongue
  • dry mouth
  • muscle weakness.

Infants with botulism:

  • appear lethargic
  • feed poorly
  • are constipated
  • have a weak cry
  • have poor muscle tone (appear “floppy”)

These symptoms all result from muscle paralysis caused by the toxin. If untreated, the disease may progress and symptoms may worsen to cause paralysis of certain muscles, including those used in breathing and those in the arms, legs, and trunk (part of the body from the neck to the pelvis area, also called the torso). People with botulism may not show all of these symptoms at once.

In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating a contaminated food. However, symptoms can begin as soon as 6 hours after or up to 10 days later.

If you or someone you know has symptoms of botulism, see your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.

Next: Find out how doctors diagnose and treat botulism >