The Cinnamon Challenge is KILLING OUR KIDS

04.23.13

Or maybe it isn’t. Who the hell knows?

Sometime around last September there was a media query looking for parents whose teens had tried the cinnamon challenge. I responded that my kid had and a producer from the Dr. Oz show wanted to know if she had any bad experiences from it? I stated that she hadn’t and asked why they were looking for teens and the reply was: BECAUSE KIDS ARE DYING.

Well, no. They actually aren’t but that was a nice try.

Is the cinnamon challenge good for you? Probably not. Is it smart? Nothing that makes a mess on my kitchen counter is smart. Is every news outlet in America going to spend the week getting shrill with Oh My Gawd Collapsed Lung!? Yes. That will happen. We love to save the children, social media is bad for the children, memes are bad for the children, ingesting spices is bad for the children and while you’re at it stop saying The F Word so much the children have delicate ears.

This new breed of hysteria is obscene.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (the same folks who want your toddler to have zero screen time and think that you should engage your 0-2 year old every second of the day):

Videos of people attempting the Cinnamon Challenge have become an Internet sensation. Typically, a video reveals a group of adolescents watching as someone taking the challenge begins coughing and choking when the spice triggers a severe gag reflex in response to a caustic sensation in the mouth and throat. As of August 10, 2012, there were 51 100 YouTube clips depicting the Cinnamon Challenge. One video was viewed 19 million times, predominantly by 13- to 24- year-olds, ages similar to people taking the Cinnamon Challenge and associated with the greatest need for conformity. These videos have raised concerns of choking, aspiration, and pulmonary damage. In most cases, the effects are temporary, yet the Cinnamon Challenge has led to dozens of calls to poison centers, emergency department visits, and even hospitalizations for adolescents requiring ventilator support for collapsed lungs.

These “hospitalizations” are referenced in a footnote that links to this video which is hosted on the Akron Children’s Hospital website. Below the video it reads: Related to Conditions: Asthma

If you don’t feel like watching a local news channel (can’t really blame you) I’ll give you the highlights. People post the cinnamon challenge online, it’s funny, people do it at home, more than 100 people called poison control, 30 people sought medical attention one collapsed lung in an asthmatic child.

From the American Association of Pediatrics:

The temporary responses to cinnamon are common to several substances and probably do not increase the risk of long-term damage.

Thus, the Cinnamon Challenge may pose greater and unnecessary health risks for persons allergic to cinnamon or with bronchopulmonary diseases, including asthma.

I assure you that the three researchers who published this very preliminary study were careful in choosing their words. I was going to throw in some interesting statistics about how many kids break their arms on school yards or lose limbs crossing the street but then I remembered that some of y’all might completely lose it and wrap your precious kids in bubble wrap after hearing those numbers.

To be perfectly clear 100+ phone calls to poison control doesn’t matter and it’s important that smart people understand why it’s a meaningless number. What happens is that people call Poison Control and say that their child has done the cinnamon challenge and that they coughed. Then Poison Control tells them that their child will be fine. They hang up the phone and shortly thereafter the child is fine. That 100+ people called Poison Control only matters if there is actual poison involved.

If you read the whole study you’ll get this paragraph:

According to the Florida Poison Information Center–Miami, between July 2011 and June 2012, there were 26 calls regarding cinnamon exposure in individuals ranging from age 1.5 to 83 years. Most patients had only minor consequences that resolved after dilution, irrigation, and washing the affected area, and most did not require follow-up. Of the 5 cases that did involve follow-up, symptoms resolved in 1 to 2.5 hours. Of the overall 26 cases, 13 (all youths aged 8–18 years) involved the Cinnamon Challenge. Of these 13 cases, 2 had “potentially toxic” exposures. Common symptoms included coughing and burning of the mouth, nose, and throat. More serious symptoms included extensive coughing, vomiting, nosebleed, and chest tightness. With only 1 exception (emesis), possible aspiration and pulmonary symptoms were limited to adolescents, all of whom had ingested dry powder from the Cinnamon Challenge. Although the known health risks of the challenge are relatively low, they are unnecessary and avoidable.

Now I understand that if you’re a researcher your job is to recommend that children avoid anything painful or irritating but by their own words the health risks are low. I’d say they’re infinitesimal. We have one meaningful injury where an asthmatic child was injured and there are 763,000 results for cinnamon challenge on YouTube.

The moral of the story is that if your child has asthma the only thing that they should breathe in is air. Everyone else might have a sore throat or watery eyes, it’s dumb, but we have to let kids be a little dumb. If you tell your kid that the cinnamon challenge is going to kill them and 763 million videos show them that you’re wrong they will never believe you when you tell them about the things that really are dangerous. And I wouldn’t believe you either.

Do we really need the every major news outlet to pick up on this as a dramatic story?

Push back. Tell the media that you aren’t buying the mindless fear they’re selling.

And none of this would be complete without showing you my daughter’s cinnamon challenge video which is so 2012….

cinnamon challenge

KQED Forum Tomorrow Morning

10.26.11

I’ll be on The Forum with Michael Krasny at 9 tomorrow morning. We’ll be talking about kids and media. The show is on KQED the Bay Area’s NPR affiliate.

You may or may not be aware that the AAP has recommended zero screen time for children under two. I suppose I’m invited to add a little color as I cannot comprehend why the AAP would think taking such an extreme stance would support new parents. I’m pretty sure this Washington Post article led them to me.

forum with michael krasny kqed npr

If you don’t live in the bay area you can listen online at KQED.org.

Guests:

  • Ari Brown, pediatrician and lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy on television and kids under two years old
  • James Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based non-profit which conducted the survey on media habits for kids up to eight years old
  • Jessica Gottlieb, parenting blogger based in Los Angeles
  • Lesli Rotenberg, senior vice president of children’s media for PBS

Faux Research Harms Everyone

07.4.11

University of WashingtonLast week I told y’all that The University of Washington had settled part of a lawsuit with the founders of Baby Einstein. In paying $175,000 of legal fees they admit that they violated the public records act. This may seem like a ho hum piece of news, but it’s really important for families to understand how research at places like the University of Washington affects our daily lives.

Dr. Dimitri Christakis has a website (and a lecture business) where he promotes himself as an International Expert on Media and Child Health. Seriously, google the phrase and you’ll see Dr. Christakis lecturing in towns like Bozeman Montana and creating healthy child guidelines with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

I know, you’re still wondering why I have such an axe to grind with this particular physician.

Well, Dr. Christakis (MD & MPH not PHD), along with his research partners Frederick J. Zimmerman, PHD and Andrew N. Meltzoff, PHD study the deleterious effects of media on children. Their research as it relates to Baby Einstein’s impact on young children is faulty at best and fraudulent at it’s worst.

Again, why do I care so much about one single study that wasn’t controlled, included self reporting on the telephone from two regions, has two sets of raw data (raw data is NOT interpreted, in a good study it’s just one set of numbers, if there are two sets of numbers there were errors, omissions or lies… none of which belong in a study) and measured babies watching an average of 8 minutes of television a day, but then they just multiplied to figure out what it might look like if that was an hour? Why would I care about a study like that? It’s like caring about the fake Autism study that put babies (and our total population) at risk by scaring parents out of vaccines.

From the study’s abstract:

Results

Among infants (age 8 to 16 months), each hour per day of viewing baby DVDs/videos was associated with a 16.99-point decrement in CDI score in a fully adjusted model (95% confidence interval = −26.20 to −7.77). Among toddlers (age 17 to 24 months), there were no significant associations between any type of media exposure and CDI scores. Amount of parental viewing with the child was not significantly associated with CDI scores in either infants or toddlers.

You would think that the babies watched an hour of TV a day, wouldn’t you? They watched LESS THAN NINE MINUTES ON THE AVERAGE. No, I’m not making this up.

Here’s the problem, Dr. Christakis is running around America (and according to his PR machine the world) peddling snake oil wherein you can raise a smarter, more literate child by keeping them screen free. What everyone is ignoring is that Dr. Christakis and his crew are once again attacking  motherhood and while they’re wrapped up in their white coats sitting in a laboratory telephoning parents they’re telling American Mothers that they’re bad at what they do.

More importantly this “research” is accepted by the AAP as truth and parents are told repeatedly that they are harming their children.

But most importantly this study appears to have been at least partially funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH). My understanding about research (again like Dr. Christakis I’ve only got a master’s degree not a PhD like Zimmerman and Meltzoff) is that good research meant to answer a question, and not to prove a point.

A few things for smart parents to take into consideration before they make media decisions:

  • Not all media is created equal, sometimes your kids just want to lay back, relax and be entertained. Just like we do. Should this be hours of the day? Of course not, but you already knew that, right?
  • Some media is quite educational, you can participate with the kids and maybe learn some stuff, like letters, numbers, shapes and language. Watch TV or hang out on websites with your kids once in a while.
  • Sometimes your older child will want to watch TV and your younger child will wander into the room. At times the younger one will be interested, other times they won’t be. Isn’t that funny how children self-regulate? Write a paper on that, maybe the University of Washington will publish it and make it the Mommy Law.
  • If you need to get dinner on the table, make the beds or balance your checkbook without pretending you’re a home school mom and you’d like to do this stuff without your kids try and do it in 22 minutes. That’s how long a TV show lasts when you fast forward through the commercials.
  • You also have permission to let the kids watch a show and you can sit and do nothing. Guess what, you’re still a good mom.

Telling parents that they aren’t permitted to allow a child to look at a screen until a certain age is ludicrous, particularly when it’s based on junk science.

Parents know intuitively what’s good for kids. Also, what’s good for the parents is good for kids. The first two years are special, sacred even, but when parents are being screeched at that everything they’re doing is wrong, bad and going to make the kids less intelligent we end up with a crew of frazzled and misinformed families.

Frazzled parents abuse children.

Faux science is robbing children of their health and of calm homes. Faux Science is robbing parents of the ability to trust their pediatrician’s recommendations. I’m urging the AAP to rethink their recommendations until they have something more than a dishonest study to back it up.

I blame these three researchers Christakis, Zimmerman, and Meltzoff for breaching the trust of the parents everywhere. It’s a horrible thing that for some reason (ego maybe?) these three researchers would impose their bias on American households without even having a set of data that the pubic can honestly review. I’ll patiently wait for the University of Washington to apologize for rubber stamping research that is opinion based and clearly meant to further one man’s career as opposed to benefiting the public that it was supposed to serve.

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For your entertainment I’m exerpting the following from the NIH Guidelines for the Conduct of Research:

  • Financial interests include, but are not limited to,ownership of stock or equity, patents,consulting arrangements, collaboration  agreements, honoraria, service on advisory boards, or management appointments. Failure to disclose conflicts of interest can threaten the integrity of research and undermine the public’s trust in the NIH’s intramural research activities
  • Scientific integrity is inseparable from meticulous attention to the acquisition and maintenance of these research data
  • Research data, including the primary experimental results and computer andstatistical analyses, should be retained fora sufficient period to allow analysis andrepetition by others of published materialresulting from those data. Seven years is specified by the Federal Government (http://www.ori.dhhs.gov/documents/FR_Doc_05-9643.shtml) as the minimum period of retention but this may be longer under some circumstances, such as clinical research

If you’re like me and you love reading academic papers here’s one that is utterly dismissive of a large body of Christakis’ work (which he sells in paperback form) There Is No Meaningful Relationship Between Television Exposure and Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
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