Honey may seem like a harmless ingredient — and for most children and adults, it is. But what about for babies and toddlers? For instance, can a 3-year-old have honey?
Here, learn the minimum age for honey consumption and why you should avoid giving your infant this sweetener.
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Is Raw Honey Safe for Infants?
Short answer: No — there are some potential dangers of honey for infants in particular, and the risk is greatest for babies younger than 6 months.
Here's why babies can't eat honey: The sweetener can contain Clostridium botulinum bacteria spores, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
These spores don't typically harm the more developed digestive tracts of children and adults. But babies' undeveloped systems can't always withstand the toxin, so the spores can lead to infant botulism, a rare but potentially life-threatening illness that attacks the nerves.
As a result, no child under the age of 1 year should eat any honey.
Honey can be used as a sweetener in other dishes and processed goods. Don't feed your baby under the age of 1 year any of these foods, either, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Side Effects of Honey in Infants
While infant botulism is rare, it's serious. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it can cause symptoms like:
- Poor feeding
- Sluggish pupils
- Flattened facial expression
- Diminished suck and gag reflexes
- Weak and altered cry
- Trouble breathing
If your baby shows any signs of this condition after eating honey, seek medical care immediately.
Even a tiny amount of honey can lead to infant botulism, so avoid the ingredient altogether until your child is over a year old, per the Cleveland Clinic.
When Can Kids Have Honey?
We've established that infants can't eat this sweet ingredient. But what about honey for toddlers — can 2- or 3-year-olds have honey?
Yes, they can, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Once your child is more than a year old, their digestive tract is developed enough to withstand spores that could lead to infant botulism. This also applies to unprocessed versions of the sweetener — for instance, raw honey is safe for 2-year-olds (and any child over the 1-year mark), per the Cleveland Clinic.
Not only can 2-year-olds eat honey, but the sweetener might actually have certain health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, these may include:
How Much Honey Can a 3-Year-Old Have?
Kids over the age of 2 years shouldn't have more than 25 grams of added sugar — including honey — per day, according to an August 2016 statement in Circulation. That amounts to less than 6 teaspoons.
- Cleveland Clinic: "When Is It Safe to Give Honey to My Baby?"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Infant Botulism"
- Mayo Clinic: "Honey"
- Cleveland Clinic: "The Benefits of Honey + How to Incorporate It Into Your Diet"
- Circulation: "Added Sugars and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Children: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association"
- Pharmacognosy Research: "Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research"
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Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.