Spicy snacks landing more kids in the ER
Those flamin’ hot chips your kids are fond of may be inflaming more than their taste buds—according to reports around the nation, emergency departments are seeing more and more children reporting abdominal pain due to the rising popularity of the spicy snacks.
The issue gained national attention through the story of one California boy, who ended up in the doctor’s office complaining of severe abdominal pain. After confessing his flaming hot habit—he says he consumes 20 to 30 bags of spicy chips a month—his pediatrician pinned the issue on his snack habit.
“It’s not uncommon to see parents bring their children into the emergency department complaining of abdominal pain, especially with the increase in spicy snacks now on the market,” says Dr. Patricia Lee, emergency medicine physician at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “Spicy snacks can not only cause gastritis, but they may make the symptoms worse over time.”
Dr. Lee says gastritis is the inflammation or swelling of the stomach lining, which can cause abdominal bloating, pain and vomiting. She says that spicy foods definitely can cause irritation, worsening if not heeded.
“Children don’t have the knowledge and the maturity to make smart food decisions,” Dr. Lee says. “They go for the taste and the pleasure. And spicy foods are addictive, in a way—the more spicy snacks you eat, the spicier they need to be. So the pain may only get worse.”
Dr. Lee says parents should monitor the spicy snacks their kids are eating and, if they see they’re having abdominal troubles, limit the amount and replace them with healthier alternatives, such as a piece of fruit or string cheese.
It’s unknown if the irritation to the stomach lining has a permanent effect on a growing body, leading to chronic issues later on, Dr. Lee says. “But why risk it?”
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.