The cinnamon challenge, it sounds innocent enough, but lately there’s been a disturbing trend of children and teens requiring medical attention after trying to complete this popular internet task. If you haven’t yet heard of this sensation, the premise is very simple, take a spoonful of ground or powdered cinnamon and try to swallow all of it quickly and without any liquid to help.
So, how is this dangerous? According to the Association of Poison Control Centers, about 88 percent of calls received during the first quarter of 2012 were related to the cinnamon challenge. That number is a more than 240 percent increase for the entirety of similar calls from 2011. Of the 139 calls received concerning the misuse of cinnamon, 30 of the callers required medical attention for their situation.
Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, cautioned, “Choking is the main hazard. Choking can aspirate the powder into your upper airways and small passages of your lungs. It can cause an inflammatory reaction.”
Cinnamon causes extreme drying of the mouth and throat went ingested in large quantities such as the challenge. “This drying effect of the cinnamon is dangerous,” Glatter says. “That’s why people feel like they want to choke.”
The cinnamon challenge has been made popular through hundreds of videos on YouTube showing people of all ages trying to accomplish the seemingly innocuous task of swallowing a spoonful of cinnamon. The challenge gained more popularity after being showcased on the Comedy Central television program Tosh.O. CBS News reports that teens and young adults may have trouble recognizing the dangers when they see media stars and politicians such as Illinois Governor Pat Quinn trying the challenge in a light hearted manner.