Cinnamon Challenge isn't child's play
Updated 11:00 am, Wednesday, May 1, 2013
If you're like me, maybe you've heard in passing about the "cinnamon challenge," which entails swallowing a tablespoon of ground cinnamon in 60 seconds without drinking any liquid.
The stunt has caught on with many young people, and has even spawned a series of queasy YouTube videos featuring teens and tween tentatively putting spoons of cinnamon in their mouths, then gagging and spitting huge brown spice clouds at the camera.
For some time, experts have warned that the challenge carries serious health risks and, last week, an article in the journal "Pediatrics" offered further proof that the cinnamon challenge isn't child's play.
The article states that swallowing a large quantity of cinnamon can lead to choking, aspiration or lung damage. "In humans, the fibers and other components of cinnamon can ... cause allergic and irritant reactions, including acute symptoms and temporary, if not permanent, lung function changes," the report reads.
Locally, experts echoed the idea that the cinnamon challenge is a strange and scary phenomenon with real potential consequences.
Though Dr. Jacob Hen, Jr., chief of pediatric pulmonology at Bridgeport Hospital, hasn't treated any kids for challenge-related problems, he said he wouldn't be surprised if he starts seeing cases at some point. "We deal with kids trying all sorts of crazy things," he said. "We're well aware of this as a long-term and short-term health problem."
He said, even if kids spit up the cinnamon, they inhale a decent quantity of it, which can have serious consequences. In addition to lung damage, possible health risks from the cinnamon challenge include inflammation, acute asthma symptoms and scarring. "Cinnamon is an irritant," Hen said. "I personally love cinnamon, but if I have too much of it, it burns."
The Pediatrics article goes on to say that a rising number of "challengers" required some help after their adventure. In 2011, the American Association of Poison Control Center received 51 calls related to the cinnamon challenge.
In the first six months of 2012, there were 178 such calls and about 30 of them required medical attention. The surge in calls between 2011 and 2012 coincided with a rise in cinnamon challenge videos on YouTube.
So why would kids latch onto this? "It does seem strange," said Victoria Richards, assistant professor of medical science at Quinnipiac University in Hamden. "I don't understand a lot of things kids do for attention."
However, she knows that gobbling a significant quantity of a caustic spice is not a good idea. "Spices weren't meant to be inhaled or ingested in a certain way," Richards said.
This story first appeared on the blog What the Health?
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