Medical Associations Tell Teens to Walk Away from “Cinnamon Challenge”

A new study by pediatricians and warnings issued by poison control experts highlight the efforts associations are making to help curb a dangerous stunt.

Their efforts are not coordinated but the message is the same: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) want teens and young adults to know the dangers of the so-called cinnamon challenge.

Although cinnamon is a common flavoring, swallowing a spoonful may result in unpleasant effects that can pose a health risk.

Earlier this week, AAP published a new study in its Pediatrics journal that shows the challenge—which involves attempting to swallow a spoonful of the spice in 60 seconds without taking a drink of water—is “practically impossible, decidedly unpleasant, and potentially harmful.” Videos of teens attempting the stunt have circulated widely online.

“People are being poisoned and sickened because of this,” Dr. Steven E. Lipshultz, an author of the report and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami, told The New York Times. “We have seen a rise in calls to poison control centers around the United States that mirrored the rise in YouTube videos and their viewing. And that’s just for the acute issues.”

“Although cinnamon is a common flavoring, swallowing a spoonful may result in unpleasant effects that can pose a health risk,” Alvin C. Bronstein, managing and medical director for the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, said in an AAPCC statement. “The concern with the cinnamon challenge is that the cinnamon quickly dries out the mouth, making swallowing difficult. As a result, teens who engage in this activity often choke and vomit, injuring their mouths, throats and lungs. Teens who unintentionally breathe the cinnamon into their lungs also risk getting pneumonia as a result.”

AAPCC’s National Poison Data System shows that in 2011, poison centers received 51 calls about overexposure to cinnamon. Through the first three months of 2012, that number spiked to 139 calls—122 of those were classified as cases of “intentional misuse or abuse,” and 30 required medical evaluation.

AAPCC recently helped experts at 57 poison centers warn parents and teens about the stunt’s potential health risks, according to the group’s statement. It also has a page on its site focusing on the cinnamon challenge, complete with resources and emergency phone numbers.

For those unfamiliar with the cinnamon challenge, here’s a SFW video of the stunt being (unsuccessfully) attempted by a firefighter.


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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