Diseases Home > Symptoms of Botulism

While signs and symptoms of botulism can take time to appear, once they do, they can include double vision, slurred speech, and muscle weakness. Infants with early symptoms often feed poorly and appear lethargic. If a healthcare provider cannot identify and treat the illness early, symptoms often progress to paralysis of the arms, legs, torso, and respiratory system.

Signs and Symptoms of Botulism: An Introduction

The cause of botulism is a nerve toxin (botulinum toxin) that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Though there are a few different types of botulinum toxins, the symptoms of botulism produced by each are quite similar.
 
When a person becomes infected with botulism, he or she does not immediately develop symptoms. The time between a person becoming infected with botulism bacteria and the beginning of botulism symptoms is called the "botulism incubation period." This period varies based on the type of botulism. For foodborne botulism, the incubation period is generally between 18 to 36 hours, but can occur as early as 6 hours or as late as 10 days.
 
The incubation period for infant botulism is between 3 and 30 days, while the incubation period for wound botulism is around 10 days.
 

Early Botulism Symptoms

Once they occur, the earliest symptoms of botulism may include:
 
  • Muscle weakness
  • Double vision
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Slurred speech
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty swallowing.
     
Infants with early symptoms may display:
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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