Published online in the journal Pediatrics, doctors advise teens not to take the "cinnamon challenge," a dangerous prank depicted in popular YouTube videos, but which has led to hospitalizations and a surge in calls to the U.S. poison centers.
The fad involves daring someone to swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon in 60 seconds without water. But the spice is caustic, and trying to gulp it down can cause choking, throat irritation, breathing trouble and even collapsed lungs, the report said.
The number of poison control center calls about teens doing the prank "has increased dramatically," from 51 in 2011 to 222 last year, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, and at least 30 teens nationwide needed medical attention after taking the challenge last year.
"People with asthma or other respiratory conditions are at greater risk of having this result in shortness of breath and trouble breathing," according to an alert posted on the association's website.
Cinnamon is made from tree bark and contains cellulose fibers that don't easily break down. Animal research suggests that when cinnamon gets into the lungs, it can cause scarring, according to report co-author Dr. Steven E. Lipshultz, a pediatrics professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
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