It is known as “the cinnamon challenge.’’ You try to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon without drinking water - or vomiting - preferably as a video camera is rolling. It may sound like silly fun, but health professionals and a growing number of local school systems are warning parents that the practice can cause health problems including respiratory distress and choking.
The YouTube generation finds the trend hilarious. How else to explain the more than 10.9 million hits for a video of a woman with big gold earrings spewing cinnamon after a failed attempt? Or the 30,000 cinnamon-related videos on the website? The challenge has been around for years, but a video posted by two NBA players, and the growth of social media and camera-enabled smart phones, have sent it viral in recent months.
Doctors aren’t laughing. They say the practice can cause serious injuries.
“The biggest problem is that the powder dries your mouth and throat, which makes it easier for it to enter your lungs instead of your stomach,’’ said James Mojica, a pulmonologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.That, in turn, can inflame the lungs, and lead to breathing difficulties, an acute lung injury, an aspiration pneumonia, or lung scarring.
Youths - the very people most commonly ingesting the cinnamon - are at particular risk, Mojica said. “Young patients can generate such high pressure when they cough that their lungs can collapse.’’
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