Watch your kitchen cupboards this season as thrillseekers look to common holiday baking ingredients for a rise - cinnamon, nutmeg and even marshmallows are the primary ingredient in trendy risky behavior. "The envelope is always being pushed to create something new that will get attention, potentially create a drug-like effect and can pass under the radar of law enforcers," says Christina Hantsch, MD, toxicologist, Department of Emergency Medicine at Loyola University Health System.
Loyola recently treated a dozen pre-teen children in its emergency room. "A group of 9-year-olds were trying to do the Cinnamon Challenge and got caught," says Hantsch, who is a former medical director of Illinois Poison Control. "One girl had seen the videos on the Internet and wanted to try it with her friends." The Cinnamon Challenge involves trying to swallow one tablespoon of ground cinnamon without water. "The dry, loose cinnamon triggers a violent coughing effect and also a burning sensation that actually can lead to breathing and choking hazards," she said. Hundreds of videos and postings on the Internet have made it a social media sensation.
In 2011, poison centers received 51 calls about teen exposure to cinnamon. In the first three months of 2012, poison centers received 139 calls. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that of those, 122 were classified as intentional misues or abuse and 30 callers required medial evaluation.
Hantsch is concerned that what was once horseplay by older teenagers is now being copied by young children. "They have easy access to ingredients like cinnamon and marshmallows and think it is cool to do what their older peers are doing," says Hantsch.
Another challenge that continues to attract followers is called Chubby Bunny. "You stuff as many marshmallows in your mouth as possible and then try to say the words Chubby Bunny," explained Hantsch. "Two children have actually choked to death attempting this game so it is not to be taken lightly."