I felt distinctly peaky on Tuesday, largely because I was terminally tired, in turn caused by my spending half the night chucking up because of a heavy cold and resultant phlegm poisoning. Hence I have resurrected this one, because the topic keeps on popping up.


This one surfaced on Facebook a couple of days ago. It’s one of those classic ersatz health scares that you expect to find in the Daily Mail or Daily Express. Have a read, then let’s do a little rational thinking about it.


Oooooh! Very worrying! Dumb kids injuring themselves. Worse, kids doing dumb things full stop! What is the world coming to? Lord have mercy on us! The sky is falling!

First things first. I thoroughly dislike the word ‘kids’ when it is applied to the young of the human race. Kids are the young of animals of the Genus Capra, Family Bovidae, or goats in plain English. It demeans children and young adults when they are referred to as ‘kids.’ That’s my thinking anyway; you may disagree.

So let’s have a lookysee and find out what tomfoolery these ‘kids’ have been getting up to. Ohmigod! How dumb can you get? They’re been grinding up sweeties and snorting the dust! The end of civilisation as we know it! Oh no! It gets worse! They’ve been smoking it too! Bring back military service and teach them some discipline!

Let’s just calm down a bit. Children have done dumb, stupid things since time immemorial. It’s what they do, and it’s part of the way they learn their way around the world. Snorting sugar doesn’t strike me as the prelude to Armageddon. Yes the idea of snorting anything for appearance sake, to look cool, is as dumb as all get out, but it’s not likely to do any physical damage (see later.) Smoking the dust? I find that unlikely, since sugar and the inert fillers in sweeties won’t burn. If they’re rolling their own snouts, then yes, there’s a problem, and it’s called tobacco. Smoking sweeties raw? Nope, I don’t believe it. That’s a fabrication.

This is where the real horror stories begin. The ‘shards’ of sugar can cut the nasal passages ‘like razorblades’ if the sweeties aren’t crushed up enough. Oh please. The nasal passages are full of mucus, and one of the purposes of mucus is to protect the delicate membranes that line the passages. It’s all very well thought out. Then, you know, sugar is pretty soluble, and will dissolve in the snot, and it’s also not very hard, so unlike rock dust (or sand as we call it) won’t physically abrade the tissues. The mucus membranes in the mouth are pretty delicate, but nobody stops children eating these sweeties, and nobody bled to death yet, did they? You won’t stop children playing in a sandpit just on the off chance they get a snootful of sand will you? Or maybe if you’re the principal or a parent at Scarborough School you will do. I don’t know.

If Smarties are fizzy, and I don’t know if they are, then there’s probably some citric acid in there with some bicarbonate of soda, neither of which is going to do a scrap of harm, though the citric acid might sting a bit I suppose.

Now the really spooky danger. Nasal maggots. Sounds like a plot for a 1950s B movie horrorfest, doesn’t it? Yikes! They might burrow into the brain or anything. Who knows? Well luckily for you, I know. Maggots are the larvae of blowflies, and they do not eat sugar, as you will know if you have ever had a bag of sugar in the house. The blowflies may well do the disgusting ‘puke in the sugar bowl and paddle in it’ thing, but they do not lay eggs in there, and if they do then the maggots will not develop. When did you last see a sugarbowl heaving with maggots? The last time you ate cheese just before you went to bed.

Maggots are carnivores and eat only dead flesh. They can be used to clean badly infected wounds and abscesses for that very reason; they leave the live flesh alone. But there’s another thing. To have even the remote possibility of nasal maggots, somehow a gravid blowfly has to get up the nostrils, and there are all manner of barriers to that, not least of which is the diameter of said nostril, and also the hairs that grow up there specifically to stop foreign body ingress. The body is pretty good at looking after itself and defending itself from invaders.

In summary, the children are being dumb by emulating the actions of their elders and erstwhile betters, but there’s precious little health risk apart from apoplexy brought on by reading this crap.

On a somewhat related topic, I discovered that the author of the Horrid Henry illustrated has been banned by her publisher from showing the little tyke doing anything dangerous such as standing on a chair or being near a stove.