Region 8 News Investigation: The YouTube Teen Challenge

Cinnamon Challenge (Source: YouTube)
Cinnamon Challenge (Source: YouTube)
Salt and Ice Challenge (Source: YouTube)
Salt and Ice Challenge (Source: YouTube)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Teens across the country have figured out common items found in any kitchen can give them the rush they so often crave.

A Youtube search of the word "challenge" will show thousands of videos of animated, painful reactions by teenagers misusing common household items such as cinnamon, salt, and ice.

The goal of the cinnamon challenge is to try to swallow a spoonful in less than a minute without drinking any water. The goal of the salt and ice challenge is to endure the pain of mixing salt and ice on the skin for as long as possible.

Hospitalist Dr. Shane Speights said the result of the salt and ice challenge is a chemical burn.

"It's not something, 'Well, it may happen this time or it may not happen.' Every single time that's going to do that because that's the chemical properties of salt and ice, and that's what happens when you combine them."

Dr. Speights said the cinnamon challenge is dangerous because a person can inadvertently inhale the cinnamon, making the body susceptible to chemical and respiratory infections, pneumonia, and a recurring cough.

"It clogs up all your salivary glands or your ability to make spit or saliva, and so then that all gets dried out. You need that to be able to get the food or whatever is in your mouth to a form that you can swallow it," he said. "You'll be coughing that stuff up for months."

In 2012, the number of calls to poison control centers concerning exposure to the spice increased dramatically among 13 to 19-year-olds. From January to early October 2012, the Centers received 262 calls, compared to 51 calls in from January 2011 to December 2011.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers issued a warning to parents, saying, "Unfortunately, videos on the Internet are helping to spread this risky activity among teens."

Better Life Counseling Center Counselor Jeff Cline said hormonal changes and the need for social rewards during adolescence are what contribute to teens engaging in risky behavior.

"If they perceive they're going to get that positive feedback from their peers, they may be impulsive and go ahead and make some decisions that aren't very well thought out."

Seventeen-year-olds Lauren Wilcox and Garison Cunningham don't believe the thrill is worth the possible dangers from the challenges.

"Stupid would be harming yourself in the process," said Wilcox.

"There's a lot of stuff I haven't done, especially in this town with my friends, but I want to be safe and I want to keep everybody around me safe," said Cunningham.

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