Children have chewed gum since the Stone Age. Black lumps of prehistoric tar with human tooth impressions have been found in Northern Europe dating from ∼7000 BC (Middle Stone Age) to 2000 BC (Bronze Age).1 The bite impressions suggest that most chewers were between 6 and 15 years of age. The Greeks chewed resin from the mastic tree (mastic gum). North American Indians chewed spruce gum. The first manufacturing patent for chewing gum was issued in 1869 for a natural gum, chicle, derived from the Sopadilla tree, indigenous to Central America. Chewing gum sold today is a mixture of natural and synthetic gums and resins, with added color and flavor sweetened with corn syrup and sugar. Chewing gum is big business. A significant amount of the $21 billion US candy industry sales is from chewing gums, many of which appeal almost exclusively to children. Despite the history and prevalence of gum chewing, the medical literature contains very little information about the adverse effects of chewing gum. In the present report, we briefly review gum-chewing complications and describe three children who developed intestinal tract and esophageal obstruction as a consequence of swallowing gum.
- Received December 30, 1997.
- Accepted April 9, 1998.
- Copyright © 1998 American Academy of Pediatrics