Smarties doc hopes maggot threat will "dissuade children from snorting" [update]
After breaking the story of the Portsmouth school district "Smartie snorting" memo, harddeadlines reached out to the doctor who was quoted, Dr. Oren Friedman, Associate Professor, Otorhinolaryngology at the University of Pennsylvania. We asked if he had specifically studied Smartie snorting and if he could comment on the incidence and prevalence of Smarties-related maggot infestation. Here's his unedited reply.
We did not do a study on this in particular....however...we often see patients with foreign materials in their noses which can cause a variety of problems -- even years after the insult occurs. I recently removed an oyster shell from a 27 year old woman who had no idea it had been there. when I showed her what was in her nose, she said "I'm going to kill them" -- she remembered that when she was 5 or 6 years old, her older brothers were playing with these shells when they were at the beach, and she believed they inserted it into her nose when she was asleep. Just a funny anecdote that relates to the fact that things placed in the nose can remain there for years and cause problems over the long term.
The sugar in smarties can irritate the nose acutely and over the long term. In addition to the local irritation from the foreign material and powder, over time, the smarties can lead to various overgrowth of bugs including viruses/fungi/bacteria. The quote regarding the maggots relates to the fact that when a foreign material, and especially a food, resides in the nose for a long period of time, infections may occur, worms may reside in the nose, even maggots may flourish in this environment -- and we have encountered such a problem in the past. Hopefully the thought of possible maggots in the nose will help dissuade children from snorting the smarties.
When asked in a followup if he had actually ever seen Smarties cause maggots, he replied, "just a possibility. i have seen maggots in the nose from other food products in general."
So, the one actual quoted source in the memo sent to parents describes the threat as only a "possibility." There's no way to verify the claims about respiratory arrest, laryngospasm, or leading to drugs.
I’m not questioning that this may be something that kids have tried — one source told me kids had been seen doing it on Tuesday. But I’m shocked at the sloppy, loopy, cut-and-paste content of the message that PMS sent home. Parents deserve better communication from those responsible for their children.
For pickup in other media, see Portsmouth Patch, EastBayRI, The Newport Buzz, TurnTo10.com, ABC6.com
Updates, 1/21 More pickup: BoingBoing again, Gawker, Washington Post, Daily Mail (UK), HuffPo (UK), CBS News
Wysiwyg Mtwzzyzx (not verified)
Thu, 01/23/2014 - 7:28pm
"So, the one actual quoted source in the memo sent to parents describes the threat as only a "possibility." There's no way to verify the claims about respiratory arrest, laryngospasm, or leading to drugs."
You just interviewed a doctor with expertise in this area- why on Earth didn't you ask him? Obviously, those are worst case scenario side effects, but do you really doubt that they are possible? (noting scare quotes you used). If you're just saying that they could have made the message less panicky, I'm with you, but factually, it seems legitimate. Even the specific question you asked the doctor seems to lend legitimacy to his concerns, given similar conditions and side effects observed by him.