You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 7:10 p.m.

Poison Control Center reports 4 'cinnamon challenge' incidents in February in southeast Michigan

By Danielle Arndt

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.


The Huron High School principal says local teens need to be told about the dangers of the cinnamon challenge.

AP file photo

Dr. Cynthia Aaron, director of the regional center, said there have been two instances in Wayne County, one in Oakland County and one in Washtenaw County. Two of the children were treated at home and two were treated in hospitals.

Arthur Willams, principal at Ann Arbor’s Huron High School, told 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.

Staff reporter Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Fri, Mar 9, 2012 : 6:28 a.m.

Child proof you home... until your child graduates from college (or joins the military) and moves out. Many homes have gun safes now: why not have spice safes as well?

Jed I Knight

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 9:43 p.m.

Watch out for smoking cigs, drinking and the ganja; and most of all *beware* the cinnamon.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 3:29 p.m.

When cinnamon is outlawed, only outlaws will have cinnamon. Good videos of "Cinnamon Challenge" on YouTube. Oh, and this is passe' Now its 4 Mentos followed by as much Coke or Pepsi that you can get down...

Ann English

Fri, Mar 9, 2012 : 1:10 a.m.

A contest involving drinking any carbonated beverage would result in hiccups. Hiccups can last for days.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 4:49 p.m.

Destructive and cruel for you to waggle another dangerous concoction under their foolish little noses, Cibachrome. Suggestion: try being helpful in a kind way in the future.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

This is your brain on ... cinnamon? Time to move it behind the counter with the sudafed that actually works.

sun runner

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

"guess what THIS IS NORMAL for a teenager to do" I don't consider eating raw spices by the spoonful because of a stupid dare or desire to alter one's consciousness to be "normal." In my teen years (late 80s/early 90s) doing something this dumb never even crossed my mind. If I was bored and looking for something to do I read a book, explored the field behind my house, or went for a bike ride. I didn't eat my mother's cinnamon. When did eating cinnamon become "normal" and reading a book did not?


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

let Darwin take over

Homeland Conspiracy

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

Ban Cinnamon......."Think Of The Children"


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 5:25 p.m.

What would we do without Pumpkin Spice without the Cinnamon?


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 12:47 p.m.

In The Detroit News this morning. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.

Kudos to Dr. Williams, Huron HighSchool Principal, for being proactive and addressing an issue that is simply unhealthy. This story, with references to &quot;Ann Arbor Huron High School principal warns parents...&quot; has been picked up by many SE Michigan News services. I spoke with my 16-year old, got the eye roll, a youtube preview of a silly kid with dragon breath, and an assurance that my child won't take the challenge. Thank you, Dr. Williams, for the teens you have kept from potential harm.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 5:26 a.m.

quetzalcoatl, If you can remember the 70's you weren't there.

Mike Klobuchar

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 4:58 a.m.

Hah! if you think this is messed up...wait until Nutmeg (1 tbsp will make for a very interesting day) is rediscovered by bored teenagers looking for a cheap legal thrill and challenge...guess what THIS IS NORMAL for a teenager to do...Do you think you can protect them? Protecting them causes more harm then good!!! NO Try harm reduction...instead of authoritarian tom foolery...based on some disgusting notion like &quot;an eye for an eye&quot; What degenerate thought that that was a good idea?


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 3:32 a.m.

&quot;The cinnamon challenge involves trying to swallow a teaspoon of cinnamon...&quot; &quot;...the challenge involves a tablespoon of cinnamon.&quot; So is it a tablespoon or a teaspoon?


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.

Yes, can someone spell out the real, official rules?


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 5:25 a.m.

1/2 of the equation is either a tablespoon or a teaspoon. The other 1/2 of the equation is an idiot.

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 3:53 a.m.

Well, linuxtuxguy, that's a good question. I don't know that there is a way to tell what the &quot;original&quot; cinnamon challenge was intended to be. But from reading various websites defining the challenge and from watching various YouTube and Facebook videos of people trying this, it appears both spoons are being used.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 2:58 a.m.

@quetzalcoatl: E-lec-trical banana Is bound to be the very next phase

Mike Klobuchar

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 4:59 a.m.



Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 3:15 a.m.

(quite rightly)


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 3:11 a.m.

they call it mellow yellow.

Jed I Knight

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 2:34 a.m.

Im thinking teenagers driving cars are more dangerous than this. We should get some numbers about incidents and accidents involving teenage drivers and publish those. And send alerts about this to the community.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 12:40 p.m.

But teens crashing cars doesn't have the same HILARITY on America's Funniest Videos or YouTube.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 1:59 a.m.

Doesn't anyone lick the flagpole anymore?

Mike Klobuchar

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 4:59 a.m.

nope but toad licking is popular in AZ and CA and NM

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 2:23 a.m.

Yes, I had a student do that once this winter, luckily it wasn't that cold!


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 1:56 a.m.

R.E. M. &quot;Imitation of Life&quot; explains it all: &quot;Thats sugarcane that tasted good. Thats cinnamon, thats Hollywood. C'mon, c'mon no one can see you try.&quot; So who decided that Hollywood was to ultimate goal in life ? Answer that and you will have the cause. Whitney, Lindsey, etc. got the answer for that too. Instead of Koi in a frozen pond waiting for the thaw, many teens are just doomed goldfish in a bowl. Like the rest of the song goes...


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 1:43 a.m.

Any survivor of the 1970s can tell you its nutmeg that's the real menace


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 5:24 p.m.

Did you know that if you remove the EN from menace you get Mace?

tom swift jr.

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 1:28 a.m.

The reality is, you're in more danger walking into the typical High School than you are by putting a spoonful of cinnamon in your mouth. I would advocate for encouraging students not to enter school buildings.

Ed Kimball

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 8:46 p.m.

Home schooling is safe? Don't most accidents happen at home?


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

they meant home schooling is safe from any ideas that may run contrary to my small world view. It's so much harder to brainwash your child if they have external influences in their life.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

Home schooling is safe? What - no spices in your house?


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.

Oh for crying out loud.

Mike Klobuchar

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 5:01 a.m.

I home school so my kid is safe!!!