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Pediatrician warns parents after treating kids who try the spicy “one chip challenge”

<i>KTVK/KPHO</i><br/>The popular spicy “one chip challenge” may literally be too hot to handle
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KTVK/KPHO
The popular spicy “one chip challenge” may literally be too hot to handle

By Briana Whitney

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    PHOENIX (KTVK, KPHO) — The popular TikTok trend called the spicy “one chip challenge” is not necessarily new, but the company behind it, “Paqui,” released a 2022 version of the chip – hotter and spicier than ever. Now, a Valley pediatrician is warning parents after seeing multiple kids from ages 10-18 recently come in for severe stomach pain after trying the challenge.

He said the problem is the potency on a small chip, but with companies profiting off kids doing this, experts say it’s up to parents to protect them. “Just the word ‘challenge’ to a teenager is like ‘game on,” said teen mental health expert Katey McPherson.

But the popular spicy “one chip challenge” may literally be too hot to handle, now becoming a medical problem. “They come in with something that looks like a stomach flu. Nausea, vomiting for a couple of days,” said Phoenix pediatrician Dr. Gary Kirkilas.

Dr. Kirkilas said kids have been coming in with severe belly pain. After asking them questions, many have admitted symptoms came on after trying the new 2022 version of the Paqui “one chip challenge” which the company advertises as a chip “straight from hell” that will “turn your tongue blue as a badge of honor.”

“The ingredients are the Carolina reaper pepper and the Scorpion pepper. Now on a scale, if you think of a jalapeno pepper or Tobasco sauce, these are numerous times more spicy,” said Kirkilas.

Dr. Kirklas said the kids he’s treated have only had a quarter or half of the chip and are having these severe symptoms just from that. But he said the website encourages even more of a challenge than just the chip itself. “If you look at the website it’ll say how long can you last after taking it and not taking any water? Can you last a minute? Can you last an hour?” said Dr. Kirkilas.

McPherson said the marketing from companies like this, especially on TikTok, specifically targets kids. “The flavors, the colors, the animation,” said McPherson. “They don’t have our kids’ best interest in mind, so we have to protect our children by those ongoing conversations.”

She said because kids’ brains aren’t fully developed, it’s normal at this age to be attracted to challenges and competitions like this. Still, when it comes to a medical concern, she said on the way to school or heading to a sports practice is a good time to have these conversations. “Those conversations can’t just be one and done,” McPherson said. “This is going to be attractive to even the best of kids.”

Now you might think, it’s just one chip; how can it be that bad? Dr. Kirkilas said that’s precisely the problem. There’s so much potency in such a little chip; it’s actually more dangerous that way.

For perspective, Dr. Kirkilas and McPherson said similarly how such a small amount of fentanyl could be so harmful; it’s a potency problem with many of these things kids will try not understanding the ramifications.

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