Cinnamon challenge seen as prank, but potentially harmful

May 9, 2013 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, High School, Middle Years

Cinnamon has been getting some press lately, and not because of its ability to add flavor to food.

An increasing number of teens are taking the “cinnamon challenge,” a dare to swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon in 60 seconds without drinking anything.

Do a search on YouTube and you’ll get thousands upon thousands of results depicting this fad – videos in which a subject spews forth a cinnamon cloud in a failed attempt to swallow the spice, many accompanied by the sound of friends laughing in the background.

But doctors say the prank is not only dangerous, it could have long-term health implications.

A report in a recent edition of Pediatrics says the fad has resulted in hospitalizations and a rise in calls to poison control centers. Cinnamon is a caustic substance that dries and coats the mouth and throat. Trying to swallow it can cause choking, throat irritation, breathing problems and even collapsed lungs.

According to report co-author Dr. Steven E. Lipshultz, a pediatrics professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, animal research indicates that when cinnamon gets into the lungs, it can cause scarring.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers website includes a warning that people with asthma or other respiratory conditions are at greater risk of having respiratory problems as a result of attempting to swallow cinnamon.

Dr. Stephen Pont, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics and an Austin, Texas, pediatrician, said the report is “a call to arms to parents and doctors to be aware of things like the cinnamon challenge” and be aware of what their children are watching online.

Chances are your kids have heard about the cinnamon challenge and know someone who has tried it. What they may not know are the potential long-term health implications. While you may not want to lock up your cinnamon, you can use this as der to starting point to talk to your child about the risks of this and other dangerous stunts.

Sadly, the cinnamon challenge is not the only dangerous game teens are trying. Arm yourself with information and you’ll be able to better address potentially dangerous behaviors with your child. WebMd has a list of 7 Dangerous Games Parents Must Know About.

The AAPCC’s website includes alerts about dangerous behavior – it’s a good site to bookmark and check from time to time.

When it comes to talking with your children, keep the lines of communication open. Ask about fads going on in their school or videos they are watching. What do they think about those fads? What do they like about the videos they watch? You’ll get a better sense of what piques their interest.

Be aware of the websites your kids are viewing and talk about stories in which kids have gotten hurt participating in stunts such as the cinnamon challenge. Ask what they think of the behavior they see. Talk to their friends, too. Sometimes friends will share information with another parent that they wouldn’t talk to their own parent about.

We can’t protect our children from everything they’ll be exposed to in our high-tech world. Understanding the influences they come face to face with each day can help us better understanding their world and how we can help them live in it.


Read the report regarding the cinnamon challenge in Pediatrics

View the Alerts page of the American Academy of Poison Control Centers website.