Parents Beware! the Cinnamon Challenge is Too Dangerous for Your Kids

By Elizabeth Simmons for DietsInReview.com

Though doctors have individually been discouraging the Cinnamon Challenge for some time, a new report in the April 22 issue of Pediatrics is the first time a group of medical experts has explicitly warned against the fad. The Cinnamon Challenge has been online for about ten years, but rose to popularity when videos of people doing the challenge appeared on YouTube. Today there are thousands of videos with millions of views. The videos are carbon copies of one another; teenagers gathered in a room while one of them does the challenge and the others laugh at the results. The cinnamon challenge has reported calls to poison control of 51 in 2011 to 222 in 2012.

The challenge itself involves attempting to swallow a teaspoon of cinnamon without any liquids within sixty seconds. It sounds like a fairly innocuous game, but the Cinnamon Challenge has led to calls to poison control centers, emergency room visits, and in some cases hospitalization due to collapsed lungs. The official website of the challenge even gives the warning, "It's going to burn, you are going to cough, and regret you tried."

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the number of calls poison control centers have received due to the Cinnamon Challenge have gone from just 51 in 2011 to 222 in 2012. "People are being poisoned and sickened because of this," said Dr. Steven E. Lipshultz, one of the authors of the new report in an interview with the New York Times. The immediate effects of doing the challenge are bad enough: burning in the airways, nosebleeds, vomiting, and difficulty breathing, but it's the long-term effects that have doctors like Dr. Lipshultz and his fellow authors concerned.

The report states, "Cinnamon is a caustic powder composed of cellulose fibers, which are bioresistant and biopersistent; they neither dissolve nor biodegrade in the lungs." Because the cellulose doesn't break down, it can stick in the lungs and irritate them. The report lists pulmonary fibrosis, or scarring of the lungs, as a potential side effect of inhaling cinnamon. It is important to note that the report doesn't warn against all consumption of cinnamon, only the swallowing of dry cinnamon like that seen in the challenge. Our Complete Guide to Cinnamon will still come in handy when cooking with this warm spice.

The report also encourages parents to have discussions with their children about the potential harm of the Cinnamon Challenge. Parents should be reminded that their advice matters in countering peer pressure...it is prudent to warn that the Cinnamon Challenge has a high likelihood to be damaging to the lungs. These discussions can also help children learn to weigh the risks and rewards of yielding to peer pressure when considering senseless and risky behaviors.

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