You've probably seen videos of people trying the cinnamon challenge. Unfortunately, these can make it look funny, so people often don't know how dangerous it really is. Someone who eats a spoonful of ground cinnamon without water can wind up in the hospital and even have permanent lung damage.
Trying to swallow dry cinnamon usually causes a person to gag, cough, or choke. Dry cinnamon can make someone's mouth, nose, and throat feel like they're burning. Some people who do the cinnamon challenge throw up or get a nosebleed.
But others inhale some of the cinnamon, and that's where things get dangerous. Cinnamon is made from tree bark and contains cellulose, a substance that doesn't break down easily. If it gets into your lungs, it stays there and can cause inflammation, thickening of lung tissue, and scarring. It can even cause pneumonia or a collapsed lung. Cinnamon also can trigger asthma flare-ups, making it hard to breathe.
The "lucky" people in cinnamon challenge videos end up spitting the cinnamon out, coughing, choking, and wishing they had never tried it. The unlucky ones end up in the hospital. Since you can't know what will happen to you, this is one challenge you'll want to skip.
Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: May 2013
*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.
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