School wants ghost peppers to remain invisible

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — Jasper High School is alerting parents about the danger of students bringing ghost peppers to school.

In two separate incidents in the past three weeks, students brought the pepper to school in the form of hot sauce, Principal Brian Wilson said. The students ingested it and shared it with other students, he said.

“It had the potential of being a dangerous situation,” he said this morning. “But in these cases, it wasn’t.”

The ghost pepper, also named bhut jolokia, is a hot pepper that is cultivated in India. It was introduced into the Western world in 2000. The pepper is not illegal, so it could be in a person’s home as a food.

“If you get it on your finger, it burns and causes skin irritation and welts,” Jasper High School nurse Jamie Hutton said this morning. “If you get it on your finger and touch your eye, it will burn the eye. It can cause vomiting as well.”

On the Scoville scale, used to measure the heat of chili peppers, the ghost pepper is at 1 million heat units; the jalapeño pepper is at 5,000 heat units, Hutton said.

When the incidents happened, Hutton called a Poison Control Center and found out that the peppers can upset the stomach and irritate the esophagus, which she included in a notice to parents that she put in the school’s weekly newsletter that went out electronically Friday.

“We wanted to make sure the parents are aware,” she said, “and to request that if they do have the hot sauces and peppers, to make sure it does not come to school.”

White milk or ice cream will help calm down the stomach and burning sensation in the mouth and esophagus. Flushing with lukewarm water for about 20 minutes will help with irritation to the skin and eyes, Hutton said.

Hutton researched the pepper online. She found information as well as videos of people eating the pepper as a test to see if they can handle the heat.

“I think it’s a challenge with the kids,” she said. “If one kid tries it, another will want to and then another will and so on. That can turn into a bad situation.”

In the two instances at JHS, the students who ingested the hot sauce were taken care of at school, Wilson said.

“I put that out there in the newsletter because I wanted parents to know,” Hutton said. “I’m just trying to protect our kids.”

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