Huron High School principal warns: Teen hospitalized for dangerous 'cinnamon challenge'
- Updated story: Poison Control Center reports 4 'cinnamon challenge' incidents in March in southeast Michigan
Note: This story has been revised to add information, including the complete text of the email from Arthur Williams.
The principal at Huron High School sent an email to parents Tuesday afternoon alerting them of a hazardous new game teens are playing dubbed the “cinnamon challenge.”
AP file photo
His email said the activity can cause coughing, choking, vomiting and hypoxia. The cinnamon also reportedly can be aspirated into the lungs and cause pneumonia.
The cinnamon challenge involves trying to swallow a teaspoon of cinnamon in less than 60 seconds, according to various websites promoting the challenge. Human salivary glands cannot produce enough saliva to properly swallow the spice without the aid of liquids. Williams' email states the challenge involves a tablespoon of cinnamon.
According to the Cinnamon Challenge Facebook page, the “first symptom” of inhaling the cinnamon is “dragon breath,” when the challenger exhales a large cloud of cinnamon.
The Facebook page and companion website goes as far as encouraging people to submit videos of themselves participating in the challenge and says if you haven’t witnessed the activity in person, “it’s definitely worth betting your friends to attempt it.”
Spokespersons with the St. Joseph Mercy Saline Hospital and the University of Michigan Health System said the hospitals have no evidence of this trend seeping through their emergency departments. So far, neither hospital has admitted patients for inhaling cinnamon, respective media officials said.
“We haven’t heard anything about anyone being hurt or harmed in any way,” added Susan Cerniglia, public information officer with the Washtenaw County Health Department.
She said the department might not hear about such incidents, however. Unlike with infectious diseases, doctors and hospitals are not required to report such problems.
Food challenges of this nature are not uncommon among kids. Others include eating a piece of bread in 15 seconds or eating 6 saltine crackers in a minute, both without liquids, and drinking a gallon of milk in less than an hour without vomiting for an additional hour.
YouTube and Facebook are hotbeds for videos of teens and adults attempting these challenges.
Williams pleaded with parents to talk to their teens about the cinnamon challenge.
“Warn them that this is not a harmless activity and that there can be severe medical consequences associated with it,” he wrote in his email.
He said this video addresses the dangers of the activity.
Here is the exact text of his email to parents:
"Hello Huron Families,
This is Dr. Williams with an important message. We have become aware of an activity that is occurring in our community called the Cinnamon Challenge. We are trying to take a proactive approach in educating the Huron community on the dangers that exist in what may seem like a harmless teenage activity. The Cinnamon Challenge consists of attempting to ingest a tablespoon of cinnamon in under a minute without drinking any water. Many teens video tape the experience and post it to Facebook or YouTube. This can be a very dangerous activity where the cinnamon can cause coughing, choking, vomiting and hypoxia. The cinnamon can be aspirated into the lungs and cause pneumonia. Recently, a local youth was hospitalized for multiple days due to participating in the Cinnamon Challenge. Attached is a very informative video link that addresses the dangers of the Cinnamon Challenge. Please speak with your teens and warn them that this is not a harmless activity and that there can be severe medical consequences associated with it."