If you work with pediatric patients at all, you’ve undoubtedly treated more than a few cases of gastritis. Increasingly, spicy snacks like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are to blame. This Sunday morning, I will be discussing the phenomenon on Fox and Friends- don’t miss it!Emergency room providers are seeing a steep increase in the number of children presenting with gastritis after eating spicy junk food. While cases occur in adults as well, kids are loving the high fat, high salt and artificial flavoring of these chips. Like other artificial additives, these flavors can be quite addicting. Children are particularly at risk of suffering from stomach irritation from consuming these snacks as they turn eating them into a contest or challenge. One child told ABC News that he consumes at least 20 bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos each month. Other children are challenging one another to eat an entire bag of hot chips without drinking for at least an hour.
The spicy flavoring of these snacks decreases the pH of stomach contents making them more acidic. The lower pH irritates the stomach lining resulting in painful gastritis. As health care providers, we don’t see many cases of gastritis from naturally spicy foods like salsa. Experts agree there’s something about these artificial flavorings that gives them greater health consequences.
If left untreated, gastritis can pose a health risk for kids. Long term damage to the stomach lining can occur resulting in peptic ulcer disease. Most cases of gastritis from eating spicy snacks are self-limited and should resolve in a few hours on their own or by taking a proton pump inhibitor such as omeprazole (Prilosec) or an H2 blocker such as Pepcid or Zantac.
Warn your pediatric patients and their parents about these snacks. Eaten in moderation, they should not result in serious health consequences. But, excess consumption can have some serious implications for kid’s GI tracts.
Don’t miss this discussion on Fox and Friends Sunday, November 17th in the 7 o’clock hour!