Doctors are warning teenagers to avoid the “cinnamon challenge,” after the popular YouTube stunt resulted in a series of hospitalizations and calls to U.S. poison centers.
In the cinnamon challenge, the participant is tasked with swallowing a spoonful of ground cinnamon in 60 seconds, without taking a sip of water. However, the spice is caustic, and can cause choking, breathing trouble, or injury to the lungs, a new report says.
The report, published online Monday in Pediatrics, claims that, as of August 2012 there were 51,100 YouTube videos depicting the cinnamon challenge. Consequently, at least 30 teens required medical attention after attempting the challenge last year.
Additionally, the number of poison control center calls relating to the cinnamon challenge dramatically increased last year. After receiving 51 calls in 2011, the number jumped to 222 in 2012, the American Association of Poison Control Centers told The Associated Press.
“People with asthma or other respiratory conditions are at greater risk of having this result in shortness of breath and trouble breathing,” an alert on the AAPCC’s website read.
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Participants in the cinnamon challenge YouTube videos often experience an “orange burst of dragon breath,” as a cloud of cinnamon causes hysterical laughter amongst observers, said Dr. Steven E. Lipshultz, a pediatrics professor at the University of Miami and co-author of the Pediatrics report.
Cinnamon, which is derived from tree bark, contains cellulose fibers that are difficult for the body to break down.
“In humans, the fibers and other components of cinnamon can also cause allergic and irritant reactions, including acute symptoms and temporary, if not permanent, lung function changes,” the report states.
According to Dr. Stephen Pont, spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, the cinnamon challenge report represents “a call to arms to parents and doctors to be aware of things like the cinnamon challenge,” AP reports.
Some teens have already begun to speak out against the dangerous trend. Dejah Reed, a 16-year-old resident of Ypsilanti, Mich., suffered a collapsed lung after attempting the cinnamon challenge and has since started a website to warn others against it.
Reed, who took the challenge four times, describes the sensation she felt during her last attempt. "I was laughing very hard, and I coughed it out, and I inhaled it into my lungs," she told AP. "I couldn't breathe."
Her father, Fred Reed, discovered his daughter with "a pale bluish color. It was very terrifying,” he told AP. Dejah spent four days in a hospital, and now requires an inhaler whenever she exerts herself.
Although she first tried the challenge because she “thought it would be cool,” Reed recognizes the error of her ways.
“It’s not cool and it’s dangerous.”