I’ve been mentioning the cinnamon challenge in clinic with my teen patients after I learned about it earlier this month. Read this nice summary. The challenge is to swallow a teaspoon of cinnamon in less time than it takes me to explain what it in the above video (60 seconds). Reality is, my patients tend to know about the challenge, but their parents don’t. I usually talk about it along with a whole list of other topics while their parents are out of the room (bullying-the choking game-sex-drugs-violence-texting & driving or other threats to their safety). Recently, a patient was able to explain the challenge to her mom with me in the room right after her mom returned and joined us. We discussed the reasons the cinnamon challenge can be life threatening and stupid.  Teens don’t want to get hurt, but they really do want to be strong, and ohhhh, competition is seductive. Teens (like most grown-ups) love to preserve that feeling of invincibility. Precisely why the challenge has caught on.

The cinnamon challenge has its own website and has gone viral with the help of social media. The topic has been viewed online more than 60 million times with some pages boasting over 10,000 “likes.”  The reason? The challenge itself is so visual and so inexpensive to replicate, teens are capturing videos of the challenge and putting them on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and on their phones. Pretty funny, right?

This is the part where I sound like a doctor. The dangers from the cinnamon challenge are real; multiple children have been hospitalized. Some children have had serious complications including loss of consciousness, collapsing lungs, ICU care, and days on a ventilator. Cinnamon is easily aerosolized but not easily dissolved. Once it lodges into tissue, it can cause great havoc and remain there. Coughing while gasping and/or choking on cinnamon can cause it to be easily inhaled or aspirated or swallowed leading into tissues in our bodies. We worry most about it collecting in the lungs.

The challenge is real. The side effects even more so.

Watch the 60-second video above. Check in with your school-age or teen child and explain the facts. Find out what they think about it and stop the allure of the cinnamon challenge now.