More than a half-dozen students at an elementary school in Orange, Massachusetts, were transported to hospitals after they either ate or touched a spicy gum product that was brought to school by a classmate, according to officials.
Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth Teahan-Zielinski said in a message to parents that one student at the Dexter Park Innovation School who purchased the spicy gum product online offered it to other students during recess on Tuesday.
According to Teahan-Zielinski, the gum product contained levels of pepper that caused digestive issues, including burning of the mouth and esophagus, for the students who consumed it.
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Students who touched the spicy gum but did not ingest it suffered immediate skin reactions, including eye irritation if they rubbed their eyes after touching it.
The Orange Fire Rescue Emergency Medical Services Department said its ambulances and additional ambulances from surrounding areas rushed six Dexter Park students to Athol Hospital and Heywood Hospital in Gardner.
Multiple other students were transported to area hospitals by their parents or guardians.
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“Appropriate action was taken to ensure the safety of our students,” Teahan-Zielinski said in her message. “The situation is still an active investigation with safety personnel as well as the school’s own investigation. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken upon the completion of the investigation.”
Teahan-Zielinski also urged parents and guardians to talk with their children about bringing candy to school or accepting candy from their classmates. These items are prohibited as part of the school district’s wellness policy because it is difficult for students to understand that some products may contain ingredients others are allergic to or are created to cause physical distress.
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