CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Poison Center issued a press release this week on the dangers associated with popular “teen challenges” and internet games and competitions that can easily prove to be harmful, and in some cases, even fatal to those participating.
The dangerous teen trends happening across the U.S. highlighted in the release were the Cinnamon Challenge and the Salt and Ice Challenge. Numerous internet sites regarding these topics explain what they consist of and the dangers associated with them.
The Cinnamon Challenge, according to Wikipedia, is a dangerous form of competitive eating in which the objective is to swallow a teaspoon full of ground cinnamon in 60 seconds or less without drinking anything. The challenge is extremely hard to do because cinnamon dries out the mouth, making swallowing difficult.
The challenge can be dangerous and even life threatening due to the high risk of choking, especially if the cinnamon clumps prior to consumption. Accidental inhalation of the herb can damage the lining of the lungs. Furthermore; due to the moderately toxic chemical “Coumarin”, present in cinnamon, health agencies have warned against consuming large amounts of it in a short period of time.
The usual side effects that occur when attempting this challenge is a coughing/gagging fit which leaves some people gasping for air. At times, they may gag and accidentally exhale the cinnamon through their noses which results in a high level of irritation, severe discomfort and burning/itching of the nasal tissues and nostrils. Vomiting is also a possibility.
The risks listed above, as bad as they are, are still not as serious as those experienced by a Michigan teen who spent 4 days in the hospital due to a severe upper respiratory infection and a collapsed lung that resulted after she attempted the cinnamon challenge. Complications have also been noted that include inflammation in the lungs and blockage of airways.
The Salt and Ice Challenge consists of a person showing their threshold for pain tolerance by wetting an area of skin and then covering it with table salt before applying pressure with an ice cube until the pain becomes so unbearable that they stop.
The challenge is painful because of the chemical processes involved. Typically, water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit but adding the salt causes the freezing point to drop to as low as 0 degrees. When applying ice, energy is pulled from what’s nearby – in this case – the person’s skin.
Risks associated with the challenge include blistering, 1st and 2nd degree burns, frostbite, permanent scarring and in some cases, infection that have created the need for surgery.
The teen fads are drawing crowds on social networking sites such as Facebook and numerous videos can be found on the YouTube site. If your teen has not heard of the challenges, there’s a good chance they will now that school is in session. Unfortunately, teenagers are especially vulnerable to the latest trends, and not all of them prove to be as innocent as what clothing is in style or what haircuts are popular. These challenges are often described as being “just for fun” and “not illegal”, but that doesn’t mean they’re harmless.
The WV Poison Center encourages parents to openly discuss with their teenagers the potentially serious consequences of these and other challenges. When they’re talked into participating in these games, parents may rest assured the risks involved are either ignored, minimized or just considered to be part of the fun. When hospitalizations and/or permanent injury occurs, the fun stops. In the worst case, some “innocent” challenges can prove to be deadly.
While speaking with your teen, the Poison center reminds parents and guardians to make sure they understand that real friends don’t ask them to risk mutilation and/or health risks as the price to be in their “circle”. Also, the popular trends are said to be done because the teenager has been assured this will make him or her an internet star.
Encourage your children to think about the consequences before taking any challenge that involve health risks. If the stunt goes wrong they could be seriously hurt, or worse, it could cost them their life.