Cinnamon challenge challenges breathing

Posted: April 24, 2013

We’ve all seen the videos circulating on YouTube of the cinnamon challenge. The dragon-like puff of spice escapes their mouth and the coughing begins. This internet fad has been around since 2001, but gained popularity in 2010, resulting in 40,000 videos being posted. In 2011, Poison Control received 51 calls related to the challenge, and in the first six months of 2012, an additional 178 calls.

In the past year, at least 30 teenagers nationwide have required medical treatment after taking the challenge (according to a report recently posted on the Pediatrics website).

The challenge itself sounds like a simple task: swallow a spoonful on cinnamon in under 60 seconds without water. The large quantity of cinnamon triggers the gag reflex, causing coughing and inhalation. This inflames airways and scarring of the lungs. Once inside the lung, the cinnamon can’t break down, causing it to sit in the lung.

“It felt like your throat was about to close up,” said sophomore Caroline Pellegrin. “I can remember desperately feeling like I needed to drink some water.”

Potentially health risks from the spicy dare are choking, chronic inflammation, and in extreme cases, pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema, putting patients on respirators.

Dr. Stephen Pont, a spokesman for the American Association of Pediatrics, said that the Cinnamon Challenge report is “a call to arms to parents and doctors to be aware of things like the cinnamon challenge.”

-Rachel Bartz and Frances Hoekstra


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