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The Real Dangers of The Cinnamon Challenge

The Cinnamon Challenge is a viral internet challenge whereby people film their attempts at swallowing a spoonful of ground cinnamon in under a minute without drinking any water.

Sounds easy, right? It’s not. In fact, the challenge carries a number of significant health risks that can leave people with permanent medical conditions. Learn more about all the best reasons not to step up to this challenge.

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Used properly, cinnamon can do more good than harm – a tasty and widely adopted spice, it is used across the globe as a cooking and flavouring material. It works as a natural appetite suppressant, an anti-clotting agent, and there are even medicinal studies into the effectiveness of cinnamon in treating HIV and inhibiting the development of Alzheimer’s disease. But this article isn’t about the benefits of cinnamon. There is a dark side to this well loved spice and we look at why the cinnamon challenge is one challenge best left uncompleted.

It’s not a recent revelation that teens are prone to taking foolish risks, but up until more recently, the largest audience that would be there to witness the inevitable carnage would be those present at the time of the stunt. Since the rise in popularity of sites like YouTube, ridiculous and potentially dangerous challenges are an easy means to achieving instant viral-video internet fame.

Like chugging a gallon of milk, eating the world’s hottest chili or the latest dumb dare, the “salt and ice” challenge, the cinnamon challenge has become an internet sensation with scores of people stepping up for their shot at internet notoriety. The challenge itself involves trying to consume a heaped tablespoon of cinnamon in less than a minute without drinking any water and at the time of writing, a search for “cinnamon challenge” on YouTube yielded over half a million hits, with the more popular videos garnering in excess of 27 million views. Challengers shovel the cinnamon into their mouths, which causes coughing, choking and the inevitable ‘dragon’s breath’ as puffs of the unconsumed cinnamon powder erupt from their mouths.

Many people may be reading this and wondering:

What is so difficult about eating some cinnamon?

Primarily, because it’s hydrophilic, cinnamon dries up saliva instantly. Clumps of saliva and cinnamon form in the back of the throat, which suffocate the saliva glands. The mouth becomes dry as a result of the reaction to the foreign matter being inhaled, and the respiratory system reacts by going into convulsions in an attempt to remove the cinnamon; making it difficult to breathe and causing choking. In addition, if you accidentally inhale it, cinammon can cause throat irritation, breathing difficulties and can even result in collapsed lungs.

According to a report by Pediatrics, there were more than 30 cases of patients requiring medical attention after attempting the cinnamon challenge, including ventilator support for some teens when they suffered collapsed lungs in 2012. In the same year, poison control centres across the United States reported more than 200 cinnamon-related exposures, up from 52 in 2011, indicating that more people are attempting the challenge.

Whilst there are no scientific studies on humans inhaling cinnamon, a 1995 paper in the Indian Journal of Medical Research showed that rats given a single dose of cinnamon powder can develop severe lung damage weeks and months later. Small particles of cinnamon make their way into the trachea which can result in immune reactions including scarring, which then produces symptoms that are similar to emphysema. Whilst there are obvious physiological differences between rats and humans, the ability to breathe through your lungs is a common requirement, making these findings all the more terrifying.

When it comes down to it, the best advice is simply to not take the cinnamon challenge. Beyond being painful and irritating the throat, the dare carries substantial health risks and can cause long term health problems. Sometimes, internet challenges are best left in cyberspace.

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