Monday, December 02, 2013


Cinnamon and spice isn’t always so nice

I'm always happy when my kids come home from school excited about something they learned. They asked if we had ground cinnamon. I thought they wanted cinnamon on apple slices.  Silly me. They told me they wanted me to do the “Cinnamon Challenge,” to try and swallow a spoonful of cinnamon in 60 seconds without any water. All the kids at school are trying it and it’s in YouTube videos.

I asked them what happens to the people in the YouTube videos that have tried this challenge.  They explained that they usually gag, cough, and the cinnamon comes flying out of their mouth or nose like dust.  They said many of the people in the videos say it burns. “It’s pretty funny,” they said.

We watched a YouTube video together. I asked them if it looks like he is having fun. He’s gagging, coughing, he looks in pain.

I advised them to please NOT try this challenge/prank or any other. I tried calmly, as calm as a mom who’s a nurse can be, to explain why this challenge is so dangerous. 
Ground cinnamon is made from tree bark and contains cellulose fibers that do not easily break down. When a large amount of cinnamon is placed in the mouth the individual will begin to gag, cough, choke, and even vomit. Cinnamon can cause irritation to the throat and lungs if inhaled. The irritation to the lungs may cause shortness of breath and trouble breathing. Even worse, cinnamon in the lungs could cause pneumonia, a lung to collapse, scar tissue to develop or permanent lung damage.

The “Cinnamon Challenge” is no joking matter. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the number of calls received about kids doing this prank has increased dramatically, from 51 in 2011 to 222 in the last year.

I told my kids I love a good prank, but not one that endangers their life or someone else’s. I asked them to share the truth about this potentially dangerous challenge/prank with their friends who may want to attempt it.  Let’s all spread the word and encourage everyone to “just say no” to the cinnamon challenge. 

Lisa Cook is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Cook or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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