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Home --> Food --> Food Warnings --> Sour Note

Sour Note

Claim:   A child who drank sour candy spray experienced throat spasms.

Status:   Multiple:

  • Child named Kylin experienced frightening throat spasms after drinking sour candy spray:   Undetermined.
  • Something in sour candy spray causes life-threatening throat spasms:   Undetermined.
  • The drinking of any liquid can provoke a laryngospasm if the imbiber is trying to breathe at the same time:   True.
Example:   [Collected via e-mail, 2006]

Warning about Spray Candy sold in stores

We had a very scary incident with Kylin Saturday night all because of some candy. It's a liquid that's sour and you just spray it into your mouth. I was right by Kylin and her friend and heard them say that it would be fun to see what it would taste like if the drank some instead of just sprayed it. (you know, typical kid fun stuff, I thought nothing of it) So Kylin said she'd try it and took the lid off (it's just like a pumpstyle hair spray top) and she took one sip. I turned around to ask if she was ok cause I thought she was making noises like when water or something just doesn't go down right and realized that she was just gasping over and over again for air and wasn't actually breathing. She was having a laryngospasm!

The definition of what happened is this -

laryngospasm

The sudden acute spasm of the vocal cords (and epiglottis) that can result in occlusion of the airway and death.

This medical definition above is from http://cancerweb.ncl.ac.uk/cgi-bin/omd?action=Home&query=

Anyway, Kylin's airways did close and she couldn't breath, so we had to call 911. She threw up before the ambulance got here and she did start being able to breath after that but still had difficulties for a little bit. The paramedics recommended we take her to the urgent care unit here and get her checked out just to be sure cause she continued to have weird spasms that were causing her throat to make a weird noise for about 2 hours after that.

The doctor there is who told me what actually happened.She is ok now, thank God, but it was so super scary!!

Kylin and Daegen both have had sour spray candy before (not sure if they've had this kind though, I've seen a few different kinds) and this has never happened but it did this time.

I'm attaching a picture of the spray (like I said, there's lots of different variations out there) and am hoping that it will get forwarded and passed around so that hopefully no child or parent has to ever go through this again.

We are just so lucky that Kylin did start breathing again and is ok now.

I have been in contact with a lady from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and she came to take a look at it this morning and she took some pictures of it and then was on her way to the convenience store to buy some so they could further investigate in. I have also contacted Global news and they may do a story about it, I'm waiting to hear back from them while they are researching it a bit.

Here is the spray that caused this. It says "sour" at the top and then "Big Mouth candy spray" and it does come in different flavors, this one being sour green apple.

Origins:   This alert about sour candy Big Mouth Candy Spray sprays dates to May 2006. Akin to warnings about drug-laced suckers and poisoned Halloween treats, it raises the specter of a danger to children lurking in a foodstuff they find highly appealing. Because youngsters are prone to devouring candy as they encounter it rather than first showing it to a parent, sweets have to be safe for them to eat. This apparent account of one child's experiences suggests that at least one class of candy is not.

While the heads-up appears to be the work of a parent who saw her child through a difficult and frightening time and now seeks to warn others to stay away from a product that brought her youngster to grief, we have yet to locate the author of the piece and so can't say if there really was a little girl named Kylin whose drinking of a sour liquid candy caused her throat to spasm and her airway to close. Details given in the story place the incident in Canada (reference is made to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and to Global, one of that country's major television networks), but the candy warned against is also available in the U.S., making the caution borderless.

Children have a high tolerance and liking for extremely sour flavors. (An adult's palate differs from that of a child in terms of which flavors can be distinguished and what tastes good. Because of this difference, sour candies marketed to adults are deliberately formulated to be less intense than those intended for their younger counterparts.) Sour bonbons account for a large segment of the youth candy market, with such confections available in a wide variety of forms, such as lozenges, toffees, suckers, powders, sprays, and liquids. While a candy meant to be spritzed into the mouth might not appeal to adults, it would to children, who would regard such delivery method as supplying an additional element of fun to the experience.

Children would also (as did the girl in the account) look to experiment with this type of product by attempting to drink it from the container. Such use is
highly foreseeable, so candymakers should be aware they would be held legally responsible for harm resulting from kids misusing the edible in this fashion and should thus test for adverse reactions to this sort of mishandling. That the product has arrived on the market generally indicates that there is nothing inherently dangerous about drinking the confection, and we haven't turned up any news stories about injuries to consumers who drank the spray rather than spritzed it. It is true that on 9 June 2006 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued an advisory regarding the use of sour spray candy, but since the advisory is vague about whether drinking the candy truly poses a risk to children (and notes that "an adverse health consequence is unlikely"), for the moment we'll leave the question of whether an element of sour candy sprays might provoke throat spasms open, hence the "Undetermined" rating to that aspect of the story.

Laryngospasms can and do occur, though, and it is not unreasonable that a child who drank a liquid candy could have experienced one, even if nothing in the candy were to blame. A laryngospasm is a spasmodic closure of the larynx — this physical event is something the human body inflicts upon itself when liquid threatens to surge into the lungs. When we are in danger of drowning ourselves via attempting to breathe and drink at the same time, our vocal folds snap shut, temporarily interrupting speech and breathing. (Because the larynx snaps shut with such speed and force, the voicebox can feel sore for hours after the spasm has concluded.)

A laryngospasm happens in a flash and usually lasts 30 to 60 seconds. During that interval, breathing is accomplished only with great difficulty, with the victim gasping for breath and failing to attain it. Outside of surgical intervention (tracheotomy) or intubation, there is no way to restore breathing to someone experiencing a laryngospasm — one has to simply wait it out, a terrifying thing to ask of any parent watching his or her child gasp for breath.

The account being spread in e-mail does appear to chronicle a laryngospasm: it describes the typical progress of such an event, and nothing in it is inconsistent with how such a medical episode would unfold. However, where the warning breaks down is in the aspect of what caused the spasm and thus the nature of what is being warned against. While the account's writer ascribes it to some component of the spray and thus advocates parents everywhere keep that particular form of candy away from their kids, it appears more likely the cause was a simultaneous attempt to both drink and breathe. More simply, under the far more plausible theory, anything the child had been in the process of drinking at that moment — milk, water, candy spray — would have caused her vocal folds to snap shut and leave her unable to draw breath for about a minute.

Barbara "the spray candy story is hard to swallow" Mikkelson

Last updated:   9 June 2006

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