Paxton Keeley responds to candy snorting phenomenon

Monday, October 26, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 11:38 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 27, 2009

COLUMBIA — Fifth-graders at a Columbia school have found other uses for candy: They have snorted it.

Elaine Hassemer, principal at Paxton Keeley Elementary School, said fifth-grade students have been crushing up Smarties candies and inhaling the powder. On Friday, Hassemer sent a letter to parents of all fifth-graders at the school alerting them to the  situation and to health risks. Candy snorting “has been occurring at recess time and in the restrooms during the school day,” the letter states.

For Paxton Keeley parents

What: Internet safety programs at Paxton Keeley parent-teacher conferences

When: 4, 5, 6 and 7 p.m. on Nov. 12

Where: Paxton Keeley Elementary School, 201 Park DeVille Drive

The number of children involved is not yet known, according to Hassemer.

Hassemer said that candy snorting has been publicized through YouTube how-to videos and that it has been done in past years across the nation.

“I guess with the advancement of YouTube, somebody has brought this back to the forefront,” she said. “This isn’t anything Paxton Keeley kids invented by any means.”

The letter states that, "While there is no possible high from Smarties, it is very dangerous."

It highlights information from Mark Shikowitz, a Long Island, N.Y., ear nose and throat specialist who treated a child involved in candy snorting. He has said the following dangers can occur as a result: inhaling candy down the wind pipe; causing the voice box to spasm and close; and causing infection from sugar sitting in the lungs or nasal cavity for prolonged periods of time.

Eliav Gov-Ari, an ear nose and throat specialist at MU, said these risks may be life-threatening.

“It can be a serious issue, especially in children,” Gov-Ari said. “Even though it’s sugar, it may cause severe cough, infection or even the lungs to collapse.”

He said the inhalation of foreign bodies into the body can also cause bleeding and infection in the nasal cavity, as well as choking.

Gov-Ari noted the mental aspect of snorting as a potentially dangerous one. "The idea of things going through your nose is a bad thing in my opinion: You start with candy today and who knows what you’ll use next in college,” he said.

Sarah Sadewhite, Paxton Keeley school counselor, said it isn’t certain whether candy snorting is a precursor for other behaviors such as smoking cigarettes or using drugs. “We feel like the students were either probably pressured or thought something about snorting was fun or looked cool so they wanted to experiment,” she said.

Sadewhite is working with fifth-grade teachers at the school to tailor a curriculum for students that will include the dangers of inhalants and handling peer pressure.

“Peer pressure is already part of the curriculum for all students but we’ll also make a curriculum specifically for students involved in the snorting situation,” she said.

Sadewhite said the goal is to teach students how to avoid negative peer pressure and what to do if they encounter negative situations.

Hassemer reiterated that, saying one of the main reasons for sending the letter home to parents was so they could talk to their children about peer pressure.

She said the school will offer Internet safety programs for parents at upcoming parent-teacher conferences. They will be put on by a Columbia Public Schools media specialist and open to all Paxton Keeley parents.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of children accessing the Internet,” Hassemer said. “We want to make sure parents are aware of how to protect their children as they use those resources.”

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