How Does Hot Sauce Affect Toddlers?

Most toddlers aren't particularly adventurous eaters, but some are adamant that they want to eat whatever Mom and Dad are eating. While most foods are safe for toddlers to sample, as long as there are no food allergy issues, hot sauce might be one you want to reconsider. While small bites here and there aren't likely to do much more than cause a fiery sensation on your child's tongue, eating larger amounts can pose a problem. Always ask your child's pediatrician before offering him hot sauce.

Hot sauces vary in spiciness, depending on what type of peppers are used. Credit: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Tongues (and Skin) on Fire

If something is spicy enough to make your tongue burn and your eyes water, chances are it's going to be at least as intense for your toddler. In some cases blistering can occur when capsaicin, the compound that makes hot sauce spicy, comes into contact with skin, according to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, writing for CNN.com. In less severe cases, irritation of the mouth, tongue and throat can occur. If your child gets capsaicin on his hands and then touches another part of his body, it can cause a fiery sensation there, as well. If this occurs, rinse your child's skin with vinegar, recommends the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Hot Sauce and Health Problems

The capsaicin in hot sauce can cause more severe problems beyond skin and mouth irritation, though it's not very likely with small bites here and there. At the least, large doses of capsaicin can cause diarrhea, Dr. Gupta notes, but too much can also lead to abnormal blood clotting, shock and kidney or liver damage. Hot sauce can also negatively impact taste buds by desensitizing them, according to a 2007 article published in the "International Journal of Toxicology." Large amounts of capsaicin from hot sauce might also lead to cell death in areas that came into contact with the substance, according to a 2013 study done with rats and published in "Molecular Cell Research."

Hot Sauce and Lead Contamination

Bottles of hot sauce imported into the United States can be contaminated with lead. For example, some bottles of hot sauce packaged in and imported from Mexico contained more lead than what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers safe, according to a 2013 article published in the "Journal of Environmental Science and Health." Exposure to lead can cause brain disorders and behavior problems in young children, according to HealthyChildren.org, a website from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Hot Saucing: A Form of Discipline

Hot saucing, a form of discipline, is another way that hot sauce can affect toddlers, and is never appropriate as it's considered a type of corporal punishment. (See Reference 7 Paragraph 5) The discipline requires parents to put a dab of hot sauce on their child's tongue to correct bad behavior. The punishment is said to work because it causes discomfort or pain on the tongue, much like a spanking does on the behind. Hot saucing can lead to mouth, lip, tongue and throat irritation and other severe reactions, as well as lead poisoning it it's used often. The United Nations Human Rights website notes that corporal punishment violates the rights of children because it causes physical harm, which is the pain caused by spicy hot sauce, and suffering. (See Reference 8 Paragraph 2 and Bottom of the Page)

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