WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA)- Last week Robert Sinclair, Jr., the Principal of Redland Middle School in Rockville, addressed students and sent an email to parents warning them about the dangers of challenge games--including the Cinnamon Challenge.
Check out social media uploads and you can find hundreds of videos showing young people trying to down ground cinnamon in one swallow, using no liquids. It's an old stunt making the rounds with a new generation of teens, being fueled by the Internet.
"I've seen it happen a few times," says one high schooler. "I've seen a few kids throw up from it."
"A lot of people throw up," agrees another teen. "I haven't seen anyone try it without throwing up. I honestly think it's impossible."
The Challenge works like this: a person is supposed to swallow a tablespoon of ground cinnamon in 60-seconds without drinking anything. The outcome is usually a lot of coughing, gagging and sometimes vomiting. And almost always, an incredible burning pain.
"It tasted very bad," says one 9th grader who was dared to do it. "And as soon as I inhaled some of it I coughed some of it out. And it wasn't a good feeling."
There are no accounts of death by the challenge, but doctors say it's a dangerous dare. It can raise blood sugar levels, burn the throat, and cause long term lung damage.
"If it gets into the lungs it's an absolute irritant. It's a foreign body and it can create an asthma attack to pneumonia," says Joseph Greensher, M.D., Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at Winthrop University Hospital in Long Island, New York.
Even the website cinnamonchallenge.com--which is devoted to the "game"--has a disclaimer on its home page. In all caps it reads:
"DO NOT ATTEMPT THE CINNAMON CHALLENGE WITHOUT TALKING WITH A DOCTOR. OBVIOUSLY THEY ARE GOING TO TELL YOU NOT TO DO IT. THE CINNAMON CHALLENGE CAN BE DANGEROUS AND SHOULDN'T BE TAKEN LIGHTLY. YOU NEVER WANT TO PURPOSELY OR MISTAKENLY INHALE ANY SUBSTANCES SUCH AS CINNAMON. IT'S GOING TO BURN, YOU ARE GOING TO COUGH, AND REGRET YOU TRIED...THERE ARE OVER 30,000 CINNAMON CHALLENGE VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE....SO WATCH MOVIES OF PEOPLE ALREADY FEELING THE PAIN."
"It's dangerous. And I just really don't want to have that feeling ever again," says our 9th grader who speaks from experience.
Critics say it doesn't help that this game of dare has been tried by some well-known names. There's video of Washington Wizzards players Nick Young and Javale McGee attempting the challenge. And just this past February, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn took the challenge while appearing on a radio show.
As for Robert Sinclair, the Principal of Redland Middle School in Rockville, he ended his announcement to students by saying, "Please, please remember that our primary focus is your safety and we will be working with your parents to make sure that you are safe and making safe decisions.
"Be positive and be the best you can be. That is the real challenge."