Parents react after 10 kids are hospitalized for ingesting spicy gum in Orange

First responders from five communities were called to Dexter Park School in Orange Tuesday to respond to a situation which officials said they have never seen b
Published: Apr. 4, 2023 at 10:17 PM EDT
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ORANGE, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - It was a scary scene at a Franklin County elementary school Tuesday after at least ten kids were hospitalized due to a run in with bubble gum.

First responders from five communities were called to Dexter Park School in Orange Tuesday to respond to a situation which officials said they have never seen before in western Massachusetts.

“A little crazy,” said fourth grader Liam Ellis. “I got a little scared about all of it.”

On Tuesday, at least ten students at Dexter Park Elementary School in Orange were hospitalized after one student brought extremely hot bubble gum to recess.

Although Ellis was not offered any…

“Liam has food allergies, so it’s a really scary thing for me that he possibly could have eaten something he wasn’t supposed to have,” his mother, Mallory Ellis, told us.

Orange Fire Chief James Young, Jr. told Western Mass News that the bubble gum is measured at 16 million Scoville units.

“Which is equivalent to basically what’s commonly referred to as pepper spray, so a very spicy or hot agent that the kids were exposed to,” he said. “It can cause skin irritation, as well as respiratory and airway inflammation.”

This gum is sold over-the-counter at popular online retailers, including Amazon.

“That’s scary,” said Dexter Park School parent Amelia Dynice. “Shouldn’t be able to buy that on Amazon.”

“The thing that we worry about is students with underlying medical conditions, such as asthma or pre-existing respiratory conditions,” Chief Young Jr. said. “When they inhale something like that, it can exacerbate their current medical condition.”

He said that in addition to the two ambulances from Orange, four neighboring communities responded to the school.

“It’s always a concern that we have is, when we respond to an incident like that, somebody else could have another person that we wouldn’t be available to respond to, so it does stretch our local resources very thin,” Chief Young Jr. said.

One parent told Western Mass News that her daughter was one of the six children taken to the hospital in an ambulance. While she did not want to be featured on camera, she added that her daughter only smelled the gum and her cheeks were extremely red and swollen. Luckily, she came home from the hospital Tuesday afternoon.

Officials added that it is important that conversations take place between parents and children across western Massachusetts about these kinds of situations.

“Kids are curious and they are going to investigate things like this, but not to bring things like this to school,” Chief Young Jr. said. “Don’t share products amongst each other, and if you see something, say something to the adults that are in charge of the school, so they can prevent something like this from happening.”

School officials declined our request for comment Tuesday, but in a statement obtained by Western Mass News, the town’s superintendent said, in part:

“Appropriate action was taken to ensure the safety of our students. The situation is still an active investigation with safety personnel as well as the school’s own investigation. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken upon the completion of the investigation.”