Dangers of Children Swallowing Chewing Gum

colorful gum background
Close-up of colored gum pieces. (Image: DoroO/iStock/Getty Images)

Chewing gum is a sweet treat that, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, has been around since prehistoric times. Chewing gum can freshen your child's breath and provide entertainment in the form of learning how to blow bubbles. Children should know to spit out their gum when they are done chewing to avoid possible health dangers.

Choking Risks

Chewing gum, like anything else your child puts in his mouth, can be a choking hazard, according to the International Chewing Gum Association. The gum base, a component of the gum that makes it stretchy and tough, can be more difficult--by design--to swallow than foods are.

Obstructions From Swallowing Gum

The American Academy of Pediatrics details cases in which children suffered from obstructions of the esophagus and gastrointestinal tract because of swallowed gum. The specific studies involved children younger than 5 years of age who had consumed and swallowed many pieces of gum over a long period, and became lodged into the throat and rectum. Most children who accidentally swallow a piece of gum now and then are unlikely to develop problems to the same extreme, but the potential danger exists.

Altered Bowel Habits

Your child could experience altered bowel habits if he has swallowed his chewing gum. The International Chewing Gum Association explains that sugar-free gums include ingredients such as sorbitol and maltitol. Small amounts of these sweeteners generally do not bother your digestive system, but consumed in large quantities, they could cause diarrhea. Conversely, the part of the gum that makes the treat chewy can't be digested, and remains in your child's lower digestive tract until he has a bowel movement. An overabundance of swallowed gum could cause your child to have some constipation, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Safe Age for Gum

You should not let their preschool-aged child chew gum until he understands to spit it out after he's finished chewing it, according to Kids Health. By time your child is around five years old, he should be able to know the difference between candy and gum.

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