Dr. Mom: 'Cinnamon challenge' adds a new worry to the long list of activities that can hurt kids

04/10/2012 12:00 AM

02/26/2013 8:10 PM

I don't know about you, but just thinking about the numerous ways my children can endanger themselves once they become teenagers sends me into a mini panic attack.

It seems teenagers are particularly vulnerable to making choices that aren't exactly in their best interest. If parents already didn't have to worry about drugs, alcohol, texting and driving, sexting, teenage pregnancy and the choking game, now they need to know and talk to their teens about "the cinnamon challenge."

If you haven't already heard, this seemingly innocuous challenge is anything but. The cinnamon challenge is a public dare that entails trying to swallow one tablespoon of dry cinnamon without the use of water.

This challenge has recently gained fervor after going viral on YouTube, where teens post videos of themselves trying to do it. The pastime, apparently, is garnering thousands, if not millions, of views and "likes." The cinnamon challenge has its own website, Facebook page, and Twitter handle, all sharing and posting videos of teens trying to pass the challenge.

Not only is this nearly impossible, it's extremely dangerous.

Once that much cinnamon is placed in the mouth and a person tries to swallow it, choking immediately ensues. Cinnamon, which packs some heat, cannot be dissolved by saliva alone. Choking may lead to vomiting and/or aspiration of the spice into the lungs.

This can lead to lung collapse or pneumonia, requiring immediate medical intervention and possibly placement on a ventilator.

Worse yet, it could trigger a severe attack in a teen with asthma.

At first glimpse, teens may think it's funny, but they need to know how extremely dangerous it is and how this challenge could land them in the hospital. Poison control centers are already reporting a spike in calls directly related to the cinnamon challenge.

It's the "I'm invincible, this won't happen to me" complex of teenhood.

But it's also more than that. It's the power of social media, which we can't deny has infiltrated the teen world and changed how our teens relate to one another.

The desire to be "liked" can now be measured by how many "friends" like their Facebook status updates or how many views their YouTube video has accumulated. Popularity can take on a virtual landscape as teens attempt to fit in wherever they can.

This absolutely fuels public dares such as the cinnamon challenge.

Parents now face not only talking to their teens about dangerous "dares," but they must also know where and what their children are doing with social media.

Today, it's the cinnamon challenge. Tomorrow, there will be some other crazy stunt using a common household item, and we'll be left shaking our heads once again thinking, "Why, teens, why?"

As I sit here worrying about what the teen years hold for my two children, still at the tender ages of 4 and 7, I am aware that the best I can do is be in the know, keep the lines of communication open, be online where they are, and hope that when the time comes they will be just as protective of their emotional and physical health as I am.


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