Food poisoning in babies is terrifying.
It’s bad enough as an adult, feeling like you may be at death’s door.
But imagine being a baby. You’ve no idea why you feel like utter shite. No-one can explain the constant tummy pain, nor why you can’t keep anything down. And worst of all, besides crying, you can’t tell anyone how you feel.
I am just emerging from the other side of food poisoning hell. I say I – I mean Moo. My poor baby has been suffering from what the doctor described as a highly unusual strain of Salmonella. So unusual and destructive that it’s resistant to most antibiotics and needed special ones ordered in.
And I have absolutely no idea how she got it.
I’m fine. Her father is fine. It all kicked off the day after I got back from holiday and she’d only been eating bread, rice cakes, fruit and baby food jars while I was away. So we’re completely at a loss.
But we feel terrible. How did it happen? Is it something we did or didn’t do? Is there a risk of her getting it again?
There are so many unanswered questions. But I thought the one thing that I can do is to share our experience and hopefully guide anyone else unfortunately going through a similar food poisoning hell.
FYI this is not intended as an alternative to professional, medical advice. This is how we personally got through food poisoning and should be taken as peer-to-peer support only. If you have any concerns or believe your child is suffering from food poisoning, please seek medical advice immediately.
How do I identify food poisoning in babies?
It’s virtually impossible to identify food poisoning in babies straight away. Many of the symptoms are the same as those displayed with an ordinary stomach bug.
In fact, it was around 2 weeks after Moo became ill that we were told she had food poisoning. I had simply assumed that she had a really nasty viral infection.
Some of the key identifying factors were:
Incredibly frequent diarrhea
That sounds a bit OTT, but this should have been a bit of a giveaway. She didn’t just have regular loose bowel movements. They were non-stop. The second anything touched her lips, all hell broke loose – even when there was nothing possibly left to lose.
Her temperature soared during the first 48 hours of contracting food poisoning and she was hovering around 38.5-39 degrees… which is really not good.
Sickness or nausea
Surprisingly, my daughter wasn’t hugely sick, but she did gag a lot when we offered her food, which indicates she was suffering from nausea.
Sleepy and listless
It’s not difficult to imagine that food poisoning completely takes it out of you. For the first time ever, my baby was completely clingy and spent days dozing uncomfortably on my lap.
Lack of appetite
You can’t blame anyone for going off food when it churns their stomach seconds after eating.
Won’t take fluid
This is potentially dangerous and can escalate pretty quickly into dehydration. Luckily for us, Moo would take very small sips of water when we offered – so we offered all the time. The doctor suggested trying a little baby squash to encourage drinking, but turns out, our little one doesn’t like sweet drinks!
This is a hard one as a baby really can’t tell you if they’re in pain. However, the crying and contorting gave it away for us – my poor little sausage.
What should I do if my baby has food poisoning?
Although it’s unlikely that you’ll know it’s food poisoning from the off, there are plenty of steps to take to ensure your baby has the best care.
If you’re in the UK, you can call 111 if concerned about symptoms but unsure of the right path for treatment. We called as Moo got worse in the middle of the night and they advised we see a doctor asap in the morning.
If you deem it an emergency, such as your baby falling unconscious, becoming difficult to rouse, begins to fit or develops a rash that doesn’t disappear when a glass is pressed on it, then please go straight to A&E or call 999.
To diagnose and manage food poisoning in babies:
Take a stool sample to the doctor (on request, not just in your handbag)
This takes between 7-10 days to analyse so it’s no speedy diagnosis. However, the doctor can advise on care in the meantime. Ours also prescribed rehydration sachets – which she wouldn’t drink – but are handy to have. Once food poisoning is confirmed, you’ll be given the appropriate course of antibiotics to fight off the nasty bacteria. Cue another upset stomach for the ‘greater good’.
Offer Calpol for pain and fever
Try not to overdo it, but it does help to reduce the fever and make baby more comfortable.
Avoid the dreaded dehydration by constantly topping up fluids
We simply offered water and formula all the time and encouraged her to take little sips as often as she could. If water is point blank refused, a bit of baby squash might help – it’s all down to what your little one will take.
Encourage them to eat bland, melty food that doesn’t hit the stomach
This tip was given to us by the doctor. Everything Moo did eat would shoot out of her 2 seconds later. The doctor suggested we try things that melt in the mouth like Pom Bears to avoid it being too taxing for her poor, messed up stomach. We also found it easier to rely on milk again to fill her up for a few days.
Keep everything clean
Probably should go without saying, but disinfect the s.h.*.t out of everything!
Wash hands thoroughly after changing nappies
Again, I should hope you are doing this anyway, but an extra hard scrub is required when handling salmonella-laced nappies to avoid reinfection.
Let go of routines
Simply do what need to do to get by. We spent days just cuddling and nights co-sleeping while the poor little one was in pain and toileting all the time. Once they’re better, you can get into a groove again, but setting aside your nap, food and sleep routine can make it easier for everyone to focus on resting and getting back to health!
It’s a horrible, awful thing to witness, but you do and will get through it.
Moo is now much much better now and a recent weigh-in confirms that all her extra snacking at night (yawn) has ensured that she’s caught back up and hasn’t lost any weight. Result! So proud of my poor baby girl.
Have you ever dealt with anything nasty like food poisoning in babies? Let me know in the comments below!