Snorting Smarties is about the same as inhaling sugar with a few irritants. Children have been crushing the candy and inhaling the powder for a while to imitate the act of snorting cocaine or heroin. Snorting Smarties doesn’t give a true “high” and it is not addictive. However, it can cause nasal infections, bleeding and scarring, allergic reactions and even the development of a nest of maggots in the nostrils or sinuses.
Infections and inflammatory reactions probably come from sugar-coating the lining of the nasal passages, sinuses and lungs. This can trigger wheezing or bronchospasm, which are particularly dangerous for kids with asthma or reactive airways.
Sharp pieces can injure the nasal lining and sinuses and nasal passages can trap small particles of the crushed candy—the perfect set-up for a nasty infection. Children may even develop dangerous allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) to the powder. This can lead to life-threatening swelling of the tongue and the upper airway.
Watch for Smarties Problems
Children who snort Smarties seem to want to mimic illicit drug use. Parents should know that this behavior could be part of an emotional or psychiatric issue to discuss with a pediatrician.
Although kids have been doing this for quite a while, parents and teachers need to stress the dangers of it. Over time, repeated inhalation can put children at serious risk for respiratory infections (including a chronic cough) from the powder’s irritating effects.
Nasal maggots are a rare potential complication that may result from development of atrophic rhinitis. Atrophic rhinitis is a chronic condition that happens after the lining of the nose and underlying bone of the turbinate (curved sections within nasal passages) break down or atrophy. It leads to foul-smelling secretions that crust in the nasal passages and cavity. Maggots can then infest the nasal passages, and patients won’t even know it because they’ve lost sensation there. This maggot infestation requires endoscopic removal, followed by copious flushing-out of nasal passages with special chemicals and antibiotics. No child wants to go through that.