HealthDay News –The “Cinnamon Challenge,” a party trick in which youths accept a dare to swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon in 60 seconds without drinking water, is responsible for a growing number of calls to poison control centers and cases of spice-induced choking and aspiration, according to researchers.
During the first six months of 2012, there were 178 calls to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) relating to the Cinnamon Challenge — up from just 51 calls in 2011, Steven Lipshultz, MD, of the University of Miami’s Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine in Florida, and colleagues, reported in Pediatrics.
Of the 178 calls, 122 (69%) were classified as intentional misuse or abuse consistent with the Cinnamon Challenge, and 17% required medical attention.
YouTube clips depicting the Cinnamon Challenge have been viewed millions of times, mainly by 13- to 24-year-olds, the researchers reported, raising concerns about the potential for choking, aspiration and pulmonary damage.
“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,” they wrote.
According to the Florida Poison Information Center in Miami, there were 26 calls regarding cinnamon exposure between July 2011 and June 2012. A total of 13 of the calls involved the Cinnamon Challenge — all among youths aged 8 to 18 years old.
Symptoms included coughing and burning of the mouth, nose, and throat, severe coughing, vomiting, nosebleed and chest tightness. Two of the cases involved potentially toxic exposures.
“Although the known health risks of the challenge are relatively low, they are unnecessary and avoidable,” the researchers emphasized.
Most of the dangers associated with the Cinnamon Challenge are temporary, but aspirated powder can enter the upper airways, causing inflammation and, in severe cases, aspiration pneumonia. The fibers and other components of cinnamon can cause allergic and irritant reactions, and cinnamon can also trigger potentially fatal hypersensitivity-induced asthma attacks, the researchers warned.
Treatment for most cases in the current report consisted of dilution, irrigation and washing the affected area, and did not require follow-up. Symptoms generally resolved in 1 to 2.5 hours.