If you’ve never seen the cinnamon challenge attempted before then click over to YouTube where there are more than 600,000 posts on the topic. Although it has been prevalent for over a decade, the stunt has found new life among YouTube aficionados young and old. Even the governor of Illinois has a video of himself attempting the escapade.
However, despite its popularity poison control and medical experts are warning against the practice stating that it’s more dangerous than most believe. The challenge, which involves swallowing a spoonful of cinnamon under 60 seconds and without the aid of water, usually results in a fit of coughing, gagging, and in the case of some videos, vomiting.
This is typically followed by a fit of laughter from anyone in close proximity. Despite the good time vibe surrounding many of the videos, researchers say that some have suffered collapsed lungs and other acute respiratory problems.
In a new report from the University of Miami: Miller School of Medicine, authored by professor of pediatrics Dr. Steven E. Lipshultz, shows a distinct “…raise in calls to poison control centers around the United States that mirrored the rise in YouTube videos and their viewing.”
The report discovered that cases reported to the Florida Poison Information Center developed a similar pattern in 2011 and 2012, consisting mostly of adolescence complaining of burning in their airways. The frequency in calls also jumped from about 55 to well over 200 over the same timeframe. This is because, despite being healthy in small doses, cinnamon is extremely caustic and can cause the swelling of the throat, sinuses and lung tissue.
In fact workers involved with the extraction of cinnamon for years have complained of similar respiratory issues, as well as skin rashes. Likewise, studies conducted on animals have revealed similar long term lung damage. According to Lipshultz , the health issues associated with the cinnamon challenge do not arise out of the toxicity of the spice but instead of the presence of a substance called cellulose, which can become lodged in the lining of the lungs. Cellulose is the main constituent of the cellular walls of plants and because cinnamon is derived from tree bark this substance inevitably makes it in.
The main problem is that Cellulose is not easily broken down by the human body so if it has become lodged in the lungs it likely to stay there for some time. Because the cellulose is coated in a caustic substance it causes chronic inflammation which lead to scarring. According to Lipshultz’s report, the damage to the lungs that is caused by the cinnamon challenge is not unlike getting emphysema.
Others like Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, have stated different but similar dangers. In a series of comments issued to CBS News Dr. Glatter stated that: “The stunt can also be deadly as a result of lack of oxygen to the brain in cases of choking and aspiration of the powder.”
While others have warned that those who suffer from asthma and other related breathing problems are at an increased risk of suffering from complication after attempting the prank.
Recently a teen from Ypsilanti Michigan was rushed to the hospital after attempting the fad. She was treated for a collapsed lung and recovered. However, her father reported some time later that she now has chronic breathing problems where there were none before. The teen, Dejah Reed, has started a new website urging kids to do the Nancy Reagan and “just say no”.
Pediatricians like American Academy of Pediatrics spokesman Dr. Stephen Pont has stated that these cases are a “call to arms” to educated children and parents about the dangers of fads like the cinnamon challenge. According to Pont, it is ultimately up to parents to educated their children and to “pay attention” to what they view online.