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Popular 'Cinnamon Challenge' on YouTube sends teens to hospitals

Published: Sunday, Aug. 30 2015 2:07 a.m. MDT

By swallowing cinnamon, several teens have put their own lives in danger. YouTube's viral video trend, the "Cinnamon Challenge" has doctors concerned, as the number of hospitalized teens has increased. (YouTube) By swallowing cinnamon, several teens have put their own lives in danger. YouTube's viral video trend, the "Cinnamon Challenge" has doctors concerned, as the number of hospitalized teens has increased. (YouTube)

Swallowing cinnamon has put the lives of several teens in danger.

The "Cinnamon Challenge," a viral video trend on YouTube, has doctors concerned as the number of hospitalized teens who have participated in the prank has increased. According to the American Association of Poison Control, as many as 30 teens needed medical attention after taking the challenge last year.

The "challenge" requires participants to swallow one tablespoon of cinnamon without drinking any water or spitting the cinnamon out. However, once swallowed the cinnamon immediately dries up the throat, causing choking, trouble breathing and can even lead to collapsed lungs.

The popularity of the dare has grown as teens have filmed and posted to YouTube their own attempts at undertaking the "Cinnamon Challenge." According to a Cinnamon Challenge website, there are more than 40,000 challenge videos on YouTube, and several of these challenge videos have more than 1 million views. the Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters" has even attempted the challenge.

An increasing number of teens are trying the Cinnamon Challenge and experiencing serious side effects.  (YouTube) An increasing number of teens are trying the Cinnamon Challenge and experiencing serious side effects. (YouTube)

The American Association of Poison Control Centers stated that the number of poison control calls dealing with the prank has more than quadrupled, from 51 in 2011 to 222 last year.

Alvin C. Bronstein, managing and medical director for the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, issued a warning about the new trend.

“Although cinnamon is a common flavoring, swallowing a spoonful may result in unpleasant effects that can pose a health risk,” Bronstein said. “The concern with the cinnamon challenge is that the cinnamon quickly dries out the mouth, making swallowing difficult."

Dejah Reed began a "Just Say No" campaign after one of her lungs collapsed from participating in the "Cinnamon Challenge." (nocinnamonchallenge.com) Dejah Reed began a "Just Say No" campaign after one of her lungs collapsed from participating in the "Cinnamon Challenge." (nocinnamonchallenge.com)

In a recent paper published by Pediatrics, the challenge is addressed as something parents should be aware of.

"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."

Dejah Reed, 16, from Ypsilanti, Mich., can attest to the seriousness of the challenge. In February last year, Reed attempted the cinnamon challenge for her fourth time.

It did not end well.

"The fourth time, I was with a friend," Reed posted to her website, nocinnamonchallenge.com. "She wanted to do the Cinnamon Challenge, but not alone. So, I decided to do it with her. I thought everything would be OK, even If I didn’t like the feeling of it. So, we did it and she ended up spitting it out. I ended up laughing, coughing it out and inhaled it. It went into my right lung and caused it to collapse."

Reed began her own "Just say no" campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of the cinnamon dare.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company