• At least six students were taken to hospital
  • Some students experienced skin reactions and eye irritation
  • A parent said her daughter's cheeks swelled after just smelling the gum

Several students at an elementary school in Massachusetts have been hospitalized after they either touched or ate a spicy gum product brought by a classmate.

One student from the Dexter Park Innovation School in Franklin County bought the novelty gum product containing "levels of pepper" online and offered it to other students during recess Tuesday, Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth Teahan-Zielinski said in a statement to parents.

When students ingested the gum product, it led to digestive issues, including a burning sensation in the mouth and throat. A number of students also experienced skin reactions and eye irritation only by touching the gum and not chewing it, reported NYPost.

Deputies were called to the school at around 2 p.m. Tuesday. Orange Fire Chief James Young Jr. said at least six kids were immediately transported to a hospital, while multiple others were taken to the medical facility by their guardians. Authorities didn't provide an exact number of students affected by the gum product. A majority of them returned to school Wednesday after receiving appropriate treatment, reported Recorder.

"A total of 6 children were transported, with multiple others transported by parents and several others evaluated by our agency," Orange Fire Rescue emergency medical services said.

Chief Young Jr. added that the bubble gum, measured at 16 million Scoville units, is available for sale on popular online retailers like Amazon. It is hot as pepper spray and can immediately cause respiratory and airway inflammation.

"The thing that we worry about is students with underlying medical conditions, such as asthma or pre-existing respiratory conditions," he told Western Mass News. "When they inhale something like that, it can exacerbate their current medical condition."

One parent told the outlet that her daughter had only smelled the gum, which resulted in extreme redness and swelling of the cheeks.

Zielinski said appropriate disciplinary action will be taken following an investigation. She also affirmed there was no malicious intent on the student's part who brought the gum.

"Appropriate action was taken to ensure the safety of our students," Zielinski added. "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."

She urged parents to speak to their children before they bring in candy, "which is not permitted as part of our wellness policy," to the school or accept such items from their classmates. "It is difficult for students to understand that items can often contain ingredients others are allergic to or created to cause physical distress."

Young Jr. also advised children to not bring such things to school and share with others.

"If you see something, say something to the adults that are in charge of the school, so they can prevent something like this from happening," the officer noted.

Chewing sugarless gum increases saliva production, which helps remove food debris from the mouth. Reuters