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As Injuries Rise, More Calls to Refuse The 'Cinnamon Challenge'

It's hard to stop a fad, even one that sometimes goes bad.

But it's time to end the so-called cinnamon challenge, doctors say.

If you're one of the few who hasn't heard about it already, that's probably a good thing.

The game, if you want to call it that, involves trying to quickly swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon without the benefit of anything to wash it down. It's practically impossible.

There are tons of YouTube videos showing the typically embarrassing results: gagging, coughing and choking. Some people vomit.

What you aren't likely to see in the videos are the hospitalizations by people breathing cinnamon into their lungs. There were 222 cases of "abuse or misuse of cinnamon by teens" in the U.S. last year, according to calls compiled by the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Recently, the number of calls "has increased dramatically," an alert on the group's website says.

During the first half of the year, there were about 30 cases that required medical treatment, according to a paper published in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Although the pediatricians who wrote the article couldn't make a strong statement about documented lung damage from the game, they wrote "it is prudent to warn that the Cinnamon Challenge has a high likelihood to be damaging to the lungs," the doctors wrote.

They say adults need to help young people understand the risks. "Given the allure of social media, peer pressure, and a trendy new fad, pediatricians and parents have a 'challenge' of their own in counseling tweens and teens regarding the sensibilities of the choices they make and the potential health risks of this dare," they wrote.

Take, for instance, the case of Dejah Reed, a freshman at Huron High School in Ann Arbor, Mich., who was hospitalized with a collapsed lung after she inhaled cinnamon during a challenge gone wrong.

She was going in and out of consciousness, Fred Reed, her father, told WXYZ in March. "She really couldn't breathe at all," he said. "Be mindful of what would could happen off of such games," he warned parents and kids.

In case you missed it, about a year ago Shots reported on a warning about the cinnamon challenge that apparently hasn't gotten nearly the traction that all those Facebook posts and YouTube videos of coughing kids have.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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