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Cinnamon Challenge Brings Risks

Last updated on Saturday, April 14, 2012

(TERRE HAUTE) - A group of teenagers crowd into a kitchen, equipped with a camera, a tablespoon of cinnamon and, perhaps, too much free time.

Performing for the camera, one of the teens pops the cinnamon in his mouth, tries to swallow it, coughs violently and draws laughter from his friends as the camera records the whole event to be posted online.

Joe Astrouski, of WTHI reports, It's called the cinnamon challenge, and it's an increasingly common craze among teens and others.

But while the practice is going viral online, it's also causing concern among health workers.

The Indiana Poison Center reports that they received 51 calls in 2011 and 139 calls in the first three months of 2012 reporting teen exposure to cinnamon. Thirty of those calls required medical attention.

"It's a dry dust. It's a chemical irritant. It burns," said Dr. John Bolinger of Union Hospital in Terre Haute. "It's so dry it's going to immediately attach to your mucus membrane linings."

Bolinger said the coughing that often occurs among those taking the challenge can cause worse problems since the coughing reflex also draws breath back in, causing the person taking the challenge to breath in more of the cinnamon.

"The biggest concern for me is they're going to inhale a lot of that powder, which is a chemical irritant, into their lungs," Bolinger said. "There's actually been cases of that where there's collapse of a lung; they (can) develop pneumonia."

To learn more about poison safety or to get emergency help with poison, call the Indiana Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

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