HomeNewsArticle Display

SALT AND ICE, CINNAMON SPICE TWO CRAZY CHALLENGES THAT DON'T END NICE

With a cross burned onto his back, this 12-year-old boy experienced the dangers of the “salt and ice challenge.” (Courtesy of West Penn Allegheny Health System)

With a cross burned onto his back, this 12-year-old boy experienced the dangers of the “salt and ice challenge.” (Courtesy of West Penn Allegheny Health System)

The “cinnamon challenge” involves shoveling a spoonful of the spice into your mouth. The problem is the powder can be caustic to the airways and cause scarring of the lungs. (File graphic)

The “cinnamon challenge” involves shoveling a spoonful of the spice into your mouth. The problem is the powder can be caustic to the airways and cause scarring of the lungs. (File graphic)

FROM WIRE REPORTS -- They are the latest, greatest fads for kids and young adults: the "salt and ice challenge" and the "cinnamon challenge." The problem for many is these wildly popular games can be dangerous and are sending people to the emergency room.

Videos of these dares have gone viral on social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube. Teens and young adults are posting videos by the thousands to get a laugh and prove their own "salt," so to speak.

To play the salt and ice challenge, people press salt and ice against their skin until the ice melts completely or for as long as they can tolerate the pain. In the cinnamon challenge, they must try to swallow a tablespoon of cinnamon in 60 seconds or less without using water.

But what most of the videos don't show are the serious risks these so-called challenges pose.

Last summer, a 12-year-old boy from Pittsburgh, Penn., sustained second-degree burns on his back taking part in the salt and ice challenge with his twin brother and a friend, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The injuries required treatment at a burn center.

The unidentified youth lay on his stomach during a sleep-over at his house as his brother and a friend put salt in the form of a cross on his back, then put ice cubes atop the salt before applying pressure, the Post-Gazette reported.

Ariel Aballay, director of the West Penn Burn Center, held a news conference to alert parents of the serious injuries the challenge can cause. In just moments, the challenge can cause first-degree cold injuries of redness that can take a few days to heal. The Pittsburgh youth's injuries caused severe blistering and required drug treatment with a lotion that had to be applied four times a day for months. He was not allowed to swim or go outside without a shirt all summer.

"The injury is similar to frostbite," Dr. Aballay said. "The longer (the exposure), the more serious the injury."

The boy's mother said her son withstood the challenge for 20 minutes, eventually losing any sense of pain or feeling, the Post-Gazette reported. She stressed the need to let the public know the potential consequences of the challenge.

Suffering second- or third-degree burns might make the "cinnamon challenge" seem like a walk in the park, but it turns out it's no picnic either.

A person could go on YouTube and watch tens of thousands of videos showing people shoveling a spoonful of ground cinnamon into their mouths. The task is not easy, because the spice in large quantities triggers a gag reflex. The videos show people coughing, choking and lunging for water, usually as friends watch and laugh as the first puff of cinnamon -- A.K.A. "dragon breath" -- comes spewing out of the contestant's mouth.

But doctors and poison control experts are warning people that this seemingly harmless dare is more dangerous than it appears. A report published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that the stunt has led to a growing number of calls to poison control centers and visits to emergency rooms. Some teenagers have suffered collapsed lungs and ended up on ventilators, according to an article in the New York Times.

"People are being poisoned and sickened because of this," said Dr. Steven E. Lipshultz, an author of the new report and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "We have seen a rise in calls to poison control centers around the United States that mirrored the rise in YouTube videos and their viewing."

The report found that in 2011, the American Association of Poison Control Centers received 51 calls related to the cinnamon challenge. Then, in the first six months of 2012, the number of calls rose to 178. Thirty of those incidents were serious enough to require medical attention.

Dr. Lipshultz found that calls to the Florida Poison Information Center in Miami about cinnamon toxicity showed a similar pattern in 2011 and 2012. Most involved adolescents who were suffering from burning in the airways and in some cases nosebleeds, vomiting and difficulty breathing.

Although the spice is harmless and potentially even healthful in small amounts, it can be caustic to the airways when inhaled, causing inflammation and scarring of the lungs, the New York Times article said. Laboratory studies show that just one instance of inhaling a large dose of the powder can produce progressive lung damage.