Friends Don’t Let Friends Take the Cinnamon Challenge

Cinnamon Challenge

If you haven’t heard of the Cinnamon Challenge yet, it is a viral Internet challenge that requires participants to swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon in under 60 seconds without drinking anything. The challenge is extremely difficult and carries substantial health risks.

Although the spice is harmless and potentially even healthful in small amounts, it can be caustic to the airways when inhaled, causing inflammation and scarring of the lungs.

History of the Cinnamon Challenge

The cinnamon dare has been around for over a decade, but its popularity took off about four years ago. It was featured in an episode of the Big Brother UK; radio programs have aired segments featuring people performing this stunt; and many celebrities and public figures have publicly attempted to beat the challenge, including NBA players.

In a 2012 episode of the Discovery Channel series Mythbusters, each member of the Build Team attempted the challenge. Two people failed the challenge, while the third completed it by tucking his spoonful into his cheek and letting saliva dissolve the cinnamon, but that took more than 60 seconds to complete.

Many people upload their attempts to beat the Cinnamon Challenge to YouTube, including comedians and other popular artists, to increase their popularity.

Dangers of the Cinnamon Challenge:

  1. There is a risk of gagging on the cinnamon, especially if it forms a clump and clogs the airways.
  2. Cinnamon powder contains an inert substance called cellulose, which can lodge in the lungs. Cellulose doesn’t break down, so when it gets into the lungs it sits there long-term and can lead to chronic inflammation and eventually scarring of the lungs.
  3. Coumarin is a toxic chemical compound that is present in cinnamon. European health agencies have warned against consuming it in large amounts.
  4. Sometimes those performing the stunt may gag and accidentally exhale the cinnamon through their noses. This often results in considerable irritation, discomfort, burning or itching of the affected nasal tissue and nostrils.
  5. Attempting the challenge can cause vomiting, pneumonia, collapsed lungs and progressive lung damage, which can lead to prolonged hospital stays and the need for a ventilator.
  6. Inhaling cinnamon powder even once can cause an asthma attack or uncontrollable spasms and narrowing of the bronchioles. For children with a history of asthma, this can trigger a fatal asthma attack.

Cinnamon Challenge-related illnesses and injuries can be prevented by talking to your kids about the dangers of attempting this stunt. Let your kids know that just because it’s on YouTube does not mean it’s safe to try at home.


About Author: Nisha Chandran, MD

Dr. Nisha Chandran, pediatrician with OSF Medical Group in Rockford, Illinois, was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. After finishing medical school in India, she specialized in pediatrics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Chandran remained at the University of Illinois Hospital and Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital as Chief Resident in the Pediatrics Department.

In her free time, Dr. Chandran likes spending time with her two young boys, being outdoors, keeping active and reading.

This author is no longer writing for this blog.

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Categories: Kids & Family