Teens who take the “cinnamon challenge,” swallowing a tablespoon of the spice in 60 seconds without drinking any liquid, can end up with lung damage, according to a new report.
The cinnamon challenge became popular last year among teens, who made more than 50,000 YouTube clips of themselves trying the stunt, according to USA Today. The immediate effects of the challenge include coughing, choking and burning of the mouth, nose and throat. These effects usually are temporary.
However someone who tries to swallow a large quantity of cinnamon may develop long-lasting lesions, scarring and inflammation of the airway, or lung damage, doctors from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine write in the journal Pediatrics.
Last year, the American Association of Poison Control Centers issued a warning about the cinnamon challenge. In the first three months of 2012, poison control centers received 139 calls about cinnamon. Of those cases, 122 were classified as intentional misuse or abuse. At least 30 people who took the cinnamon challenge required medical attention, including ventilator support for collapsed lungs.
Report author Steven Lipshultz said teens with asthma are particularly at risk from ingesting large amounts of dry cinnamon.
“Given the allure of social media, peer pressure and a trendy new fad, pediatricians and parents have a ‘challenge’ of their own in counseling tweens and teens regarding the sensibilities of the choices they make and the potential health risks of this dare,” Lipshultz wrote. “Parents should be reminded that their advice matters in countering peer pressure. Further, schools and pediatricians should be encouraged to discuss with children the ‘Cinnamon Challenge’ and its possible harmful effects.”