The Cinnamon Challenge

April 22, 2013, 7:04 pm


Ingesting and Aspirating Dry Cinnamon by Children and Adolescents: The “Cinnamon Challenge” Grant-Alfieri A et al. Pediatrics 2013 Apr 22 [Epub ahead of print]

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There are thousands of videos on YouTube of individuals attempting the “Cinnamon Challenge“, which involves ingesting one tablespoon of ground cinnamon without the aid of water or fluids to wash it down. Cinnamon — a spice derived from the bark of certain trees — contains cellulose, fibers that once inhaled persist in the respiratory tree and are not biodegraded.

Cinnamon is a caustic irritant that can cause a hypersensitivity reaction or trigger an asthma attack. Most individuals who attempt to swallow a dry tablespoon-full experience coughing and gagging, along with burning of nasopharyngeal mucus membranes. Pneumothorax has occurred in a number of cases.

As the authors of this helpful article point out, rat studies indicate that inhaling cinnamon dust and cellulose fibers can lead to pulmonary fibrosis, alveobronchiolitis and granulation.Aspiration pneumonia can occur. Although symptoms from undergoing the cinnamon challenge are usually self-limited, children and adults with respiratory diseases such as asthma or cystic fibrosis may be at increased risk.

I am not pleased to report that my very own governor, Pat Quinn of Illinois, is on YouTube taking the “Cinnamon Challenge” and setting an appalling example. By the way, he cheats, washing the cinnamon down with water and, to my eye, ingesting much less than a tablespoon-full:


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