The cinnamon challenge was sparked by the emergence of YouTube videos showing people swallowing large quantities of the common kitchen spice without water. Upon finishing the challenge, contenders are often immediately hit with an extreme coughing fit and sometimes vomiting. But these are just side effects of the challenge's more serious consequences, which can include lung collapse, pneumonia, and pulmonary edema (the abnormal build-up of fluid in the lungs).
The MTV series Jackass first popularized the gallon challenge, in which individuals are dared to drink an entire gallon of milk—anything less than whole milk is usually considered cheating—in an hour without vomiting. Of course, getting sick is inevitable: The human stomach is unable to process an entire gallon of milk in one sitting. Although participating in the gallon challenge won't necessarily put your child at risk for long-term health problems, you can expect a severe case of vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and bloating.
This game can go from funny to frightening very quickly. The objective is to see how many full-size marshmallows kids can fit in their mouths before they can no longer say the words "chubby bunny." This game is especially popular on camp-outs, and successful strategies involve utilizing every spare inch of the mouth, including the throat. Chubby bunny has resulted in several choking deaths over the past several decades, including the heated case of 12-year-old Catherine Fish, who suffocated while playing the game at an annual fair hosted by her Chicago elementary school in 1999.
Ice and Salt Challenge
To prove they can withstand pain, many middle school and high school kids are taking on the "ice and salt challenge." This involves wetting an area of skin, covering it with table salt, and applying pressure with an ice cube. Usually, water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but adding salt causes the freezing point to drop to as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit. When kids apply ice to a salt-covered, moist area of skin, they will experience extreme pain. And depending how long competitors resist the urge to remove the ice, they could face blistering, first- or second-degree burns, or even frostbite.
Parents often worry about whether or not their children are drinking enough water, but very few consider that their children are drinking too much. Chugging exorbitant amounts of H2O may sound harmless, but as 28-year-old Jennifer Strange proved back in 2007, "hyperhydration" can be deadly. Strange was competing in a contest sponsored by a California radio station during which she was challenged to drink as much water as she could while resisting using the bathroom for as long as possible. She died from what doctors call "water poisoning." Drinking too much water dilutes the sodium in the bloodstream, which can cause a fluid imbalance in cells. (Recommended daily water intake for men is three liters, or 13 cups per day; for women, it's 2.2 liters or 9 cups.) Those who participate in water-chugging challenges will likely only experience nausea and headaches, but hyperhydration can also lead to brain swelling, respiratory arrest, coma, and death.
Updated on 4/16/12: This story has been updated to include the most recent information on the 'choking game.'