HOUSTON - An old trend has returned and now schools around the country are calling for bans on the common kitchen spice, cinnamon.
More than 30,000 videos are online showing people of all ages ingesting a teaspoon of dry cinnamon and trying to swallow it in 30 seconds.
A website called www.cinnamonchallenge.com is dedicated to collecting videos of the attempts. It's a trending topic the website KnowYourMeme.com said started in 2001 but is on the rise once again.
The videos show within seconds of ingesting the cinnamon, most people spit out what looks like a brown cloud before coughing or spitting it out.
The cloud of cinnamon resembles a smoke cloud from a dragon's mouth, which has led some to call the stunt the dragon challenge.
Ben Taub Hospital emergency room Dr. Stanley Wu said the reason people have a hard time swallowing the powder is because it doesn't break down easily in water, and the same holds true of saliva.
"It just sits there and doesn't dissolve. You can put a teaspoon of cinnamon in a glass of water and it will sit on top of the water. You can pick it up out of the water and it is still dry," said Wu.
But Wu cautioned, it is more than just a parlor trick.
"It is really difficult to swallow and because of that, a person will start gagging and then as a secondary effect to that will likely inhale some of all of the fine particles. If those get in your lungs, it can actually cause pneumonias and infections of the lungs," Wu said.
According to Wu, people like firefighters, smokers, those with asthma or anyone with compromised lungs are at the greatest risk for a small inhalation of the cinnamon dust to turn into something more serious.
In some cases, the coughing can get so severe, it can collapse a lung. It happened to Fred Reed's daughter.
"My daughter stayed in the hospital for almost a week and I almost lost her," said Reed.
The best remedy after ingesting the cinnamon is to get out of the room where there could be more particles floating around and drink as much water as you can to move the cinnamon into the digestive tract.
Wu told Local 2 the best thing a parent can do is talk to their kids about the dragon challenge and explain why it can be dangerous.
KPRC Local 2 contacted local school districts, and none of them have banned cinnamon from campus.
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