4-Year Old Dies After Inhaling Cinnamon: How a Common Spice Can Kill

 , NDTV  |  Updated: July 10, 2015 18:27 IST

4-Year Old Dies After Inhaling Cinnamon: How a Common Spice Can Kill
What started as just another day in the life of Brianna Radar ended tragically. On June 3rd, her 4 year old son, Mathew Radar was playing in the kitchen when he came across a common ingredient in every kitchen, ground cinnamon powder. Curious as kids are, he put some in his mouth. Within seconds, he was choking like he was having a seizure and collapsed right there on the kitchen floor. He was rushed to the hospital but doctors were unable to save him. He was pronounced dead just an hour and a half later. According to the coroner, the spice got into his lungs and caused asphyxiation. His mother revealed that Matthew was a healthy kid with no prior health problems.

The distraught mother’s life may have come to a standstill that fateful day but she has taken it upon herself not to let this tragedy happen to anyone herself. She has started a campaign to urge kids and teenagers not to perform the ‘cinnamon challenge’. This challenge has been going viral on social media and in the recent years has become an internet trend with many willing to take the dare. You may have come across several videos of people stuffing down cinnamon, coughing, choking and lunging for water, while friends watch and giggle.

Like the ice-bucket challenge, this one too has gained popularity. But does that mean you should try it? Attempting to swallow a tablespoon of cinnamon powder in 60 seconds without water isn’t just painful but dangerous too. Doctors and health experts have spoken against this seemingly harmless stunt, the consequences of which are more frightening than it appears.(Store Cupboard Swaps - Kitchen Tips for Busy Cooks)

A 2013 study published in the Journal Pediatrics found that the number of calls to poison control centers and visits to emergency rooms due to cinnamon toxicity rose drastically over a period of two years in the United States. Most adolescents suffered from burning in the airways, nosebleeds and difficulty in breathing while in some serious cases they ended up on ventilators.

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Cinnamon is a common spice that you’ll find in most kitchens. Ms. Rader asks parents to keep such spices out of reach from children. In this hour of need she found many well-wishers, who helped her raise about $1,065 to cover her son’s funeral. She has since been spreading the word about the dangers of inhaling cinnamon powder.

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Little Matthew’s death was a terrible accident but it sounds an alarm against the ‘cinnamon challenge’ that people across the globe undertake despite the dangers.

"When taken in small quantities, cinnamon actually helps in increasing metabolism and keeps insulin levels in control for those who are diabetic. If the intake is in large quantities (like a tablespoon of cinnamon powder used for the challenge) it can severely damage the throat and cause bronchial blockage which can even result in choking,” Dr. Anju Sood, Bangalore based nutritionist.

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There is nothing that cinnamon contains which makes it poisonous. It only becomes a threat to the respiratory system when inhaled in large quantities. The fieriness of ground cinnamon powder, when consumed, may induce coughing causing it to get into the lungs and block access to air. It may lead to scarring, severe irritation and spasm. The irritation leads to rapid exhalation to expel out the spicy powder, also known as 'Dragon Breath'. The spice is made from tree bark and contains cellulose fibres that don't easily break down. It may remain lodged in the lungs and create blockages. The lack of oxygen to the brain may cause seizures, potentially leading to death.

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CommentsDr. Shikha Sharma clarifies, “Ideally, only a pinch (about a gram) of cinnamon can be consumed daily for therapeutic purposes but never in raw powder form. It can be added to tea or milkshakes. An incident like this makes us cautious of the innocent dangers lurking in our kitchens.”

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Tags:  ChildrenSpice