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How Does Hot Sauce Affect Toddlers?

author image Brenna Davis
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.
How Does Hot Sauce Affect Toddlers?
Hot sauce is dangerous for toddlers. Photo Credit Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Most toddlers instinctively dislike hot sauce. Capsaicin, the oil that gives hot sauce its burn, is especially irritating to young children and can strongly affect the body's functioning. Young children should not eat hot sauce, and hot sauce on the tongue is a form of discipline that most pediatricians consider abusive.

Mucous Membrane Irritation

Hot sauce is irritating to the mucous membranes, which explains why it creates a burning sensation in the throat and mouth. Children that eat hot sauce may instinctively cough and inhale the sauce into their nose, causing burning and sinus discomfort. Children often touch other areas of their body after eating. If they do so after touching hot sauce, they may experience severe pain. When hot sauce touches the genitals or eyes, the pain can last several hours, according to "Biology: Life on Earth With Physiology." There is no effective treatment for the pain caused when hot sauce comes into contact with other areas of the body, and symptoms go away on their own after several hours or days.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Many children are sensitive to spicy foods. These food sensitivities might cause diarrhea, vomiting and acid reflux, according to pediatrician William Sears. The reaction typically occurs 12 to 72 hours after consumption. Diarrhea and other stomach problems can cause dehydration and malnourishment.

Other Effects

In extremely rare cases, large quantities of hot sauce can send the body into shock, according to "Biology: Life On Earth With Physiology." Hot sauce might also temporarily elevate blood pressure and cause the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is associated with a number of adverse health effects, including weight gain and heart palpitations.

Hot Sauce Discipline

Some parents use hot sauce as a form of discipline, but most child safety and psychology experts consider this a dangerous form of abuse. Psychologist Elizabeth Gershoff advises that physical punishment has severe negative effects on children and is largely ineffective. Pediatrician William Sears advises using a combination of natural consequences, time-outs and reward-based methods instead. Toddlers are developmentally unable to understand concepts like right and wrong, and don't typically understand punishments, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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