“Cinnamon challenge” could harm health

By Shayna Brouker • Published: July 9th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s the latest fad kids are pulling these days: swallowing a spoonful of cinnamon in a minute without a drink, then inevitably coughing up the stuff — and capturing it all on videos that have gone viral on the Internet at the tune of more than 51,000 YouTube clips. But this silly stunt can have serious health implications, the least of which is a burning throat and a bad cough.

It’s known as the “cinnamon challenge” but nothing about it is worthy of accolades — and it’s landed some pranksters in the hospital, reports the journal Pediatrics. At least 30 cinnamon challengers needed medical attention in 2011.

The concern is that cinnamon not only irritates mucous membranes but could cause permanent damage if inhaled into the lungs. Cinnamon is composed of cellulose fiber that doesn’t break down in the lungs. It’s unclear whether people who try this challenge will be scarred for life, but animal studies revealed that a single dose of cinnamon “dust” triggered lasting lung inflammation, thickening and scarring.

In addition, if challengers throw up, they could accidentally inhale their own vomit. That experience could lead to an infection known as aspiration pneumonia. Several challengers have ended up with collapsed lungs and on ventilators in the hospital.

A silly game can easily turn into a trip to the E-R. And cinnamon isn’t the only kitchen product kids are getting their hands on for a cheap thrill — even marshmallows are a toy. The “chubby bunny” game involves kids stuffing as many marshmallows into their mouth as they can, and trying to say “chubby bunny.” Two kids have choked to death playing this seemingly innocent game.

Other seemingly innocuous offenders in your kitchen cabinets include ground nutmeg, aerosol whipping cream and cooking spray, and even hand sanitizer. Make sure kids are aware of the dangers — and keep an eye on your kitchen supplies.