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Dangers Of The Cinnamon Challenge

April 26, 2013, 6:12 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Dangers Of The Cinnamon Challenge

If you've never heard of the Cinnamon Challenge before, ask your kids, because they probably know all about it.

It's a dare to eat a spoonful of ground cinnamon in less than 60 seconds without drinking anything. And while it might seem harmless, doctors warn this challenge can actually lead to serious health problems.

Whether people do it to appear "cool" to their friends or because their older siblings force them, doctors say the cinnamon challenge is dangerous.

More than 750,000 people have posted videos on YouTube where you'll see them shoveling a spoonful of ground cinnamon into their mouths.

"YouTube, Facebook, it's everywhere. It only takes a second on the computer to see that and say, 'that looks like fun,'" Avera Pediatrician Dr. Kara Bruning said.

In nearly every case the person is unsuccessful.

"The problem with the cinnamon challenge is that it's a normal food. Kids eat cinnamon. They put it on cinnamon toast or a cinnamon roll, so they think it's OK, but the problem with cinnamon is as soon as you put it in your mouth and you can't really swallow it and it sits there and dries out your mucous membranes," Bruning said.

Doctors point out that cinnamon can also burn your throat and gulping it down in large quantities can cause choking, breathing trouble and even a collapsed lung. 

"The problem with that is some kids will actually aspirate. It goes down into their lungs. Cinnamon is really bad in your lungs. There are kids who have been in the hospital multiple days with a tube down their throat intubated to help them breathe," Bruning said.

Not only could you end up in the doctor's office because of the cinnamon challenge, but it could lead to long-term health problems.

The tiny granules can cause scarring in the lungs and could result in chronic lung disease. 

"You could get pulmonary fibrosis. You could get long-term lung disease from this. You could do this at 12 or 14-years-old, and that pulmonary fibrosis follows you for the rest of your life. You're almost going to look like emphysema, and you're going to start that at age 12," Bruning said.

Despite the dangers the cinnamon stunt is especially popular among kids, hundreds called local poison control centers with medical emergencies last year alone.

This year, the case count is already in the dozens which is why doctors say now is the time to put a stop to it.

"You definitely need to talk to your kids about any of these sort of challenges, whether it's this or trying out tobacco or alcohol or any of those things. They all have consequences, and parents need to start talking to their kids early about these things before they start happening," Bruning said.

More than 30 kids in the U.S. sought medical attention after taking the challenge last year. Nearly 200 calls were also made to U.S. poison control centers.

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