Weekly challenge: get kids to avoid taking the cinnamon challenge

Parents already know that teens take stupid health risks like sniffing glue or ingesting “bath salts” to get high, but here’s another one they need to warn to their kids against: a “cinnamon challenge” where a tablespoon of ground cinnamon is swallowed in less than a minute without drinking fluids.

There are more than 50,000 youtube videos showing teens and young adults taking the cinnamon challenge including the one posted above which had more than 9 million views. After watching the disgusting display, I can’t fathom why anyone would want to try it. (The girl who does it looks scared and unsure why she’s doing it herself.)

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Mere moments after the cinnamon is ingested, it gets shot back out through the mouth in a cloud of red dust; coughing and choking ensue as the spice triggers a severe gag reflex. In some cases, the choking causes the cinnamon to wind up in the lungs, which can lead to lung damage. An article published Monday in the journal Pediatrics noted that during the first six months of 2012, there were 178 calls to US American Association of Poison Control Centers—up from 51 calls in all of 2011—and 30 teens required medical attention.

Some adolescents have gone to the emergency department after taking the cinnamon challenge, and some have required hospitalization for collapsed lungs, according to the study authors. While most of the time, the troublesome choking and gagging effects of ingesting too much cinnamon are temporary, the practice can in rare cases result in long-lasting lung problems due to lesions and scarring that form on the lungs or chronic inflammation of the airway—especially in those who already have asthma.

Bottom line: Parents need to instruct their children to stay away from the cinnamon and maybe stash it away in the deepest darkest reaches of the pantry.