TODAY

TODAY   |  April 23, 2013

Doctors: ‘Cinnamon challenge’ a dangerous game

The cinnamon challenge, eating a spoonful of the spice without any water, is popular with teens online but doctors warn that it is sending kids to the emergency room. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

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>>> doctors are sounding the alarm this morning about the so-called cinnamon challenge. it's a dangerous stunt popular among teens that's led to hospitalizations and a surge in calls to poison centers. dr. nancy snyderman is nbc's chief medical editor. good morning, i've never heard of this.

>> this caught me off guard, household cinnamon a little bit no big deal . if you put it in your mouth and can't swallow it, it can become dangerous and it's a trend thanks to peer pressure and the internet.

>> try to eat it and not get hospitalized.

>> reporter: it's become an internet sensation. woo!

>> reporter: tens of thousands of videos posted on youtube showing someone, often a teenager completing the cinnamon challenge.

>> one tablespoon of cinnamon.

>> reporter: it involves shoveling a tablespoonful into your mouth and swallowing it without a sip of water and this happens, a lot of coughing and choking as the spice triggers a severe gag reflex.

>> oh, my god!

>> reporter: the cinnamon challenge is raising concerns among pediatricians.

>> some of the powder can be in their mouth, it can be in their esophagus, food pipe . that can lead to swelling, inflammation, irritation and that can cause pain, it can cause trouble breathing.

>> reporter: while most people who try it recover quickly a report published monday online in the journal "pediatrics" warns it's on the rise with serious consequences.

>> last year we noticed there was an increasing number of calls to poison control centers around the united states for poisonings related to using the cinnamon challenge.

>> reporter: the number of calls to poison control centers jumped more than four times with 222 calls last year. some teens even hospitalized for collapsed lungs.

>> it's entirely preventable. our advice would be this is one dare that's not worth doing.

>> it's not worth doing when you put something in your mouth if you can spit it out and swallow it but in this case if you inhale it, it hurts your lungs and that's what sends people to the emergency rooms . don't do it. it's a dumb idea.

>> you heard it from the doctor but i'm not sure i needed to get that advice.

>> looks crazy.