PITTSBURGH (CBS) — Across the country, more and more people, including a lot of teenagers, are being rushed to the hospital with severe stomach pain and other alarming symptoms after having too many spicy snacks.
“Spicy chips are currently a cultural phenomenon,” said emergency room Dr. Manisha Raja. “The numbers are quite high, that’s what I have been seeing.”
She says eating too many of the spicy treats can irritate the lining of your stomach because of high acidity levels in chips. It could lead to gastritis, “it can lead to upper abdominal pain that rises into the chest,” she said. Patients can also experience nausea and vomiting.
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Parents are taking kids to ER because the red dust on those snacks doesn’t just turn fingertips red,” it can cause slimy, blood-tinged appearing stool or vomit,” Dr. Raja said. “It’s not actually blood, it’s the food coloring in the chips.”
Rene Craighead’s 17-year-old daughter was eating about four bags of hot chips a day.
“She was eating big bags and would take them to school with her,” she said.
The teen had to have her gallbladder removed after feeling sick to her stomach. Craighead believes the chips were to blame.
“I was very surprised my daughter was feeling sick like that,” she said.
But Dr. Raja said there are a number of factors that contribute to gallbladder removal.
“It isn’t directly related to chips, but more the lifestyle and eating pattern,” she said.
They can be addictive, Dr. Raja said.
“Your taste buds pleasure centers react to them in a very positive way,” she said.
Her recommendation is to stick to the serving size; and remember, one bag can contain multiple servings.
In a statement to CBS News, Frito-Lay, the manufacturer of Cheetos and a number of spicy chip options said: “At Frito-Lay, we aim to delight our consumers and food safety is always our number one priority. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos meet all applicable food safety regulations, as well as our rigorous quality standards. That said, we realize some consumers may be more sensitive to spicy foods than others and may choose to moderate consumption or avoid spicier snacks due to personal preference. When consumers have questions or concerns about any of our products, we are available to answer their questions through our dedicated Consumer Relations team.”