Excessive Candy Consumption Is Giving Children Burns and Seizures

Turns out your mom was right: too much candy is bad for you. But she didn't say that licorice and sour suckers would cause bloody tongue blisters and seizures.

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Mar 2 2015, 10:33pm

Our parents cautioned us that if we ate too much candy all of our teeth would fall out. Or we'd get a headache, or stay up too late, or get bacne. But there are some candy-related injuries that we weren't warned about that are a hell of a lot scarier than any of the above.

Have you ever gone to see the latest rom-com and opted for the big pack of Sour Patch Kids just for yourself, knowing full well that there were thousands of sharp little sour flavor crystals contained therein, and found after the movie that the entire inside of your mouth felt like it got a thorough scrubbing from a belt sander? Then you may have come close to experiencing the horrific chemical burn that recently befell an Australian boy after he went to town on some Warhead Juniors Extreme Sour candies.

Seven-year-old Lachlan Canak of Sydney literally burned a hole into the surface of his tongue (click for the very disgusting photo) after revelling in a tin of the super-sour hard candies, which elementary schoolers are wont to do if my memories of trading the quickly banned, drug-like test-tube sugar powder Raven's Revenge serve me correctly. When he went to show his mother the oral damage inflicted by the nuclear-strength sweets, she was sickened by the skin-crater and immediately posted it on social media as a warning to others.

Though marketed as being suitable for children ages four and over, Warheads Juniors Extreme Sour get their distinctively pucker-inducing quality from malic acid, which is an irritant that can cause damage to the soft flesh of your mouth if you tear your way through a whole package of sugar globes coated in the stuff. There is a warning on the package stating that "eating multiple pieces within a short time period may cause a temporary irritation to sensitive tongues and mouths," but who reads that stuff, anyway? Candy tastes like fun!

Well, until Lachlan had to eat blended food for dinner that night because his tongue was giving him hell.

Stop by the Warheads Facebook page, survey the posts on its wall, and you'll find a collage of photos of tongue burns from irate parents and complaints about oral bleeding. Warheads has remained relatively quiet on the issue, even through reports that some of their products have a pH on par with battery acid. But they aren't the only candy that can cause your tongue to blister and boil and peel like a witch hex. Sour Skittles quietly changed their formula a little over a year ago to swap out its sour powder coating for a smooth candy shell and less-gnarly interior; could it have been because of the complaints of mouth burns?

And if oral acid burns sound like a nuisance, put them into perspective alongside full-blown seizures—which a ten-year-old Italian boy recently experienced after going crazy on some licorice.

The boy was admitted to a hospital in Bologna after eating at least 20 pieces of licorice per day over the span of more than four months, resulting in high blood pressure that caused him to suffer from a two-minute-long "tonic-clonic seizure," followed by three more (and a splitting headache) at the infirmary. His hypertension became so bad, in fact, that he had developed a brain swelling condition called posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome.

One of the active ingredients in licorice is glycyrrhizic acid, which the World Health Organization does not recommend consuming in doses larger than 2 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. The boy was consuming roughly 2.88 milligrams via the candy—a dangerously high level. In fact, doctors at the hospital noticed that his teeth were stained black from his candy crack.

The good news: after the kid cut back on his chewy drug of choice, his blood pressure went back to normal. But doctors are urging the institution of a recommended daily amount so that other children, especially those of low body weight, don't experience similarly adverse effects. The USDA says that health problems can arise from eating as little as two ounces of licorice per day over a period of two weeks or longer.

But doctors aren't addressing the real problem here: clearly, these children were not exposed to the cautionary tale of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Tongue burns and seizures are horrific, sure, but no one wants to end up in the incinerator like Augustus Gloop.