CINNAMON CHALLENGE: Doctors warn lung damage is no joke - KMSP-TV

CINNAMON CHALLENGE: Doctors warn lung damage is no joke

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It's a popular stunt popping up on YouTube -- swallow a spoonful of cinnamon and get a laugh as you cough and hurry for a glass of water, but doctors say the so-called "cinnamon challenge" isn't a harmless dare.

Health officials say inhaling cinnamon can cause serious lung problems, even sending some to the hospital.

In ancient times, cinnamon was so valuable it was used as gifts for kings and deities. Doctors also used it to treat everything from sore throats to low libido. In small doses, the ground tree bark can be good for you, but not if you breathe it in.

"A little cinnamon sprinkled on your food is great, but trying to swallow the dry powder in teaspoon amounts is not a good idea," warned Dr. David Roberts.

The goal of the "cinnamon challenge" is to swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon in 60 seconds without any water. Videos of people eating teaspoons to ladles full and then coughing up a cloud of "dragon's breath" while onlookers laugh in the background are being uploaded in droves.

Most people have cinnamon in their kitchen cabinets as it is used for spicing up everything from cereals, apple pie and even stir fry, but the newest food fad involving the powdered product could do much more than leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Roberts told FOX 9 News that cinnamon can burn your throat and gulping it down in large quantities can cause choking, breathing trouble and even a collapsed lung.

"What we're worried about is: People can inhale the powder into their lungs while they are trying to swallow it, gagging, choking on it," Roberts explained. "If they have asthma, it can cause wheezing, shortness of breath."

Roberts said the tiny granules can also cause scarring in the lungs, and could result in chronic lung disease.

According to Roberts, the Hennepin Regional Poison Control Hotline has taken seven calls since the beginning of last year regarding the cinnamon challenge, mostly from teenagers who found out the hard way they weren't up for it.

"Most people try it once," he said. "It's so unpleasant their friends are more likely to be entertained than they are -- not very pleasant to choke and gag."

At least 30 teenagers across the country have been hospitalized in the past year after taking up the challenge, and hundreds more called poison control centers for help.

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