Poison Control Center reports 4 'cinnamon challenge' incidents in February in southeast Michigan
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Note: Original information from Poison Control had the incorrect date. The story has been updated to reflect the change.
The Children’s Hospital of Michigan Regional Poison Control Center out of Detroit reported four cases of children needing medical attention after participating in the “cinnamon challenge” last month.
AP file photo
Arthur Willams, principal at Ann Arbor’s Huron High School, told AnnArbor.com in an interview Wednesday that a freshman girl at Huron was hospitalized for 4 1/2 days during the district’s mid-winter break, Feb. 18-26, upon attempting the cinnamon challenge.
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 to parents Tuesday afternoon about the girl's hospitalization states the challenge involves a tablespoon of cinnamon.
She was admitted for pneumonia-like symptoms, Williams said.
He said the girl’s father came to the school to speak with Huron nurses about the trend. The girl is the only student that Ann Arbor Public Schools staff is aware of being hospitalized for the activity, Williams said.
He added after his email to Huron parents notifying them of the challenge was made public Tuesday, he learned of a couple other students who had done something similar. They were not medically affected by it, Williams said.
The principal said he was very surprised to learn about the cinnamon challenge and was more surprised by the number of teens around the country experimenting with it.
“With children, sometimes all it takes is for one mistake to be deadly and they don’t get a second chance,” he said. “When kids do a particular act, it seems like it’s for a kick. But they don’t realize the harm.”
He said the email was meant to inform parents so they can be vigilant in watching out for their teens.
Keenan Bora, an emergency physician with University of Michigan Health Services and a medical toxicologist with the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Poison Control Center, said while he hasn’t seen any patients who have tried the cinnamon challenge, he has fielded phone calls about it.
He said the most important thing is if children are having difficulty breathing because of inhaling cinnamon, they should not drink water.
“Drinking water is not going to do anything. They should just come to the hospital as soon as possible. There are no home remedies for this,” he said.
Bora explained people who try the cinnamon challenge often develop inflammation of the lungs. Upon arriving at the hospital, depending on how severe the lack of oxygen is, they will be placed on a breathing machine, which is considered “supportive treatment,” or they could need to be intubated, he said.
Bora said he has heard of teens ending up in the intensive care unit after trying the cinnamon challenge.
“Don’t do it,” he said. “It can lead to severe, long-term lung problems and there is just no reason to do it.”
Bora said if the patient’s lack of oxygen gets to the point where he or she needs to be intubated or is in the ICU, it could lead to permanent lung changes, such as pulmonary fibrosis, the scarring or thickening of lung tissue.