Why You Should Be Cautious When Trying TikTok's Spicy Gum Trend

The origin of many social media trends can be traced back to TikTok. And #troublebubble — which, at the time of writing, has 10.9 million views and is at the center of quite the controversy — is no different. Trouble Bubble, manufactured by CaJohns Fiery Foods Co., claims to be the "HOTTEST Bubble Gum on Planet Earth" at 16 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU) a piece. To put that into perspective, ghost peppers are rated at one million SHU, Carolina Reaper peppers at 2.2 million, and the world's new hottest pepper, Dragon's Breath, at 2.48 million. Only pure capsaicin measures close to 16 million SHU. The #troublebubble challenge involves challengers chewing the gum long enough to blow a bubble, which is no small ask.  

According to WSAZ NewsChannel 3, when 10 students from Dexter Park Elementary School in Orange, Massachusetts, got their hands on Trouble Bubble, the aftermath was "something that you see in, like, a horror movie." A parent told Western Mass News that, after receiving a call from the school about her son, she found the kids red-faced, vomiting, and crying. Later, some students were even rushed to the hospital, where a doctor reportedly experienced itching and burning sensations from merely examining the kids. Per the New York Post, even classmates who didn't eat the gum and only touched or smelled it reported experiencing painful symptoms. Gum doesn't usually send people to a hospital, but given the spice level promised by Trouble Bubble, it's best to be cautious.

The dangers of eating extremely spicy foods

The Southborough Police Department released a statement on Facebook warning everyone about the dangers of the "TikTok Gum Challenge." Because even pepper spray has only 1 to 2 million SHU, the police said that "anyone found to have used the gum should be treated for extensive exposure to oleoresin capsicum." Multiple rounds of rinse-swish-spit with water are recommended for those who have chewed Trouble Bubble. If someone has already swallowed saliva after chewing on it, they should be taken to the ER, as doing so can cause bouts of vomiting and difficulty breathing.

Trouble Bubble isn't the first spicy food challenge to go viral, and, like other dangerously hot items, the pack of gum does come with a warning label of "extreme danger" and a slew of other disclaimers. But that's usually not enough to stop people from attempting these challenges. However, urgent care provider Allan Capin told Cleveland Clinic that eating spicy foods like those behind the infamous One Chip Challenge or the Trouble Bubble Challenge is "like putting a bomb in your stomach if you're not prepared for it." As your body tries to rid itself of the spicy capsaicin, you may experience diarrhea, chest and belly pains, headaches, and vomiting. The gastric acid produced by vomiting can even cause burns in your throat and the esophagus.