By Roy Benaroch, MD
I suppose there’s always something new and stupid for people to do. You can thank Youtube for the latest craze—“The Cinnamon Challenge.” Can you eat a tablespoon of cinnamon in 60 seconds, without drinking any water?
I’m not going to post any links, but Youtube is filled with videos of people trying, and coughing, and vomiting. Fun for the whole family? Maybe not.
Cinnamon is quite irritating, and the tiny powder absorbs fluid quickly. It also seems to clog up the glands that produce saliva in the mouth. People who try to eat cinnamon this way end up with dry, caustic powder in the throats and down their esophagus. Without water or saliva to wash it down, the powder clumps and sticks. Coughing and gagging are inevitable. Worse, it’s very possible to suck the powder down into the lungs themselves, causing trouble breathing and maybe even respiratory failure.
The Cinnamon Challenge can be especially dangerous for people with lung disease, like asthma. It’s also an especially bad idea if the reflexes that protect your lungs are blunted, which happens when alcohol or other drugs are taken.
Facebook, Youtube, and other internet fun sites have made it quick and easy for fads to spread. Some are probably silly and harmless—though even planking has led to some deaths. Other trends, like The Choking Game, are very dangerous. While The Cinnamon Challenge hasn’t killed anyone—yet—it’s a dumb thing to try.