How is botulism treated?

Doctors use a variety of treatments to remove botulism toxins from the body. In the most common treatment, a doctor provides a medication called antitoxin. This medication contains antibodies which attach and neutralize the toxin which stops the toxin’s effects in the body.

People with wound botulism may need an operation where doctors surgically remove the contaminated part of the wound. After this operation, people take antibiotics to keep the infection from coming back.

Some people may need treatments to manage the symptoms of botulism. They sometimes need to use a ventilator (machine that helps breathing) until any paralysis affecting their breathing goes away.

What are the complications or side effects of botulism?

Botulism can paralyze the muscles that help you swallow and breathe. It can cause breathing problems that could lead to death. It can also leading to choking that leads to aspiration of food or your mouth’s secretions.

What can people expect after treatment for botulism?

Depending on the severity of the case, recovery from botulism can take weeks, months, or even years. Most people who receive prompt treatment recover completely in less than 2 weeks.

Some people feel tired and short of breath for years after surviving botulism. Breathing exercises and other therapies can help them manage these symptoms. People with ongoing breathing problems may have to continue using a ventilator for weeks or even months.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/14/2018.

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