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The Dangers of the Cinnamon Challenge

There are thousands of videos on YouTube of teenagers coughing and choking after attempting to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon in 60 seconds without drinking water.

While some teenagers might think it is funny and harmless, there are health risks associated with the cinnamon challenge.

A report in the journal Pediatrics found that the challenge has led to a growing number of calls to poison control centers and visits to the emergency room. Some participants have even suffered collapsed lungs and ended up on ventilators.

According to the report, in 2011 there were 51 calls to the American Association of Poison Control Centers related to the cinnamon challenge. IN the first six months of 2012, there have been 178 calls, with thirty calls serious enough to require medical attention.

The Florida Poison Information Center in Florida had the same patterns of calls in 2011 and 2012, and most involved teenagers who were suffering from burning airways, nosebleeds, vomiting and difficulty breathing.

Although cinnamon itself is harmless, inhaling it can be caustic to the airways, causing inflammation and scarring of lungs. Cinnamon also contains cellulose, which doesn’t break down and can sit there long term and lead to chronic inflammation.

In 2012, Google recorded 2.4 million hits for the topic, and a website devoted to the challenge claims more than 400,000 videos had been posted to YouTube. The governor of Illinois has also taken the challenge.

The newest trend for teenagers is the condom challenge, where teens attempt to snort a condom up their nose and pull it out of their mouths. This is also dangerous, as it is a choking hazard.

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Source: The New York Times, “Consequences of the Cinnamon Challenge,” April 22, 2013.

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