‘Cinnamon Challenge,’ Popular with Teens, Proves Risky

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It’s a relatively simple dare, but teens are sending themselves to the hospital by attempting the “cinnamon challenge.”

The objective is to swallow a tablespoonful of cinnamon in under 60 seconds — a nearly impossible feat that causes contenders to gasp, spit and choke while attempting to keep the spice down. The game has gained popularity in the last few years, and as Newsfeed reported earlier this month, video after video of teens attempting the challenge are popping up on YouTube.

But the nonsensical challenge has serious health consequences. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), in the first three months of 2012, the nation’s poison control centers have received 139 calls seeking help for cinnamon misuse and 122 of the calls were related to the “cinnamon challenge.” Out of the 139 calls, 30 needed medical attention.

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“Although cinnamon is a common flavoring, swallowing a spoonful may result in unpleasant effects that can pose a health risk,” said Dr. Alvin Bronstein, managing and medical director for the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, in the 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.”

The AAPCC says the Internet is encouraging the spread of the risky behavior among teens. As Newsfeed reported, a website dedicated to the cinnamon challenge warns, “Do not attempt the cinnamon challenge without talking with a doctor.” But it adds, “Obviously they are going to tell you not to do it … so watch movies of people already feeling the pain.”

If monitoring alcohol and tobacco abuse isn’t enough, parents may now need to keep tabs on the spice cabinet. “We urge parents and caregivers to talk to their teens about the cinnamon challenge, explaining that what may seem like a silly game can have serious health consequences,” said Bronstein in the statement. Good grief.

MORE: Why the Smell of Cinnamon Makes You Spend Money