Common kitchen items like ground cinnamon and marshmallows are increasingly being used by kids for dangerous choking games and cheap, easy highs, a toxicologist warns.
"A lot of these spices and household products are around all year. But during the holidays, kids are out of school. So they have less structure and may spend more time on the Internet, where they can learn about choking games and other ways to get high," says Christina Hantsch, MD, of Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Ill.
"There is always something new out there. So parents have to educate themselves and their children and have a relationship where they can talk about things they have heard of that may very well be risky."
So just what are kids doing with these spices and products?
Hantsch says the emergency room at her hospital saw 12 preteen kids who took the "cinnamon challenge." During this challenge, kids swallow cinnamon without any water. This results in a cough and burning sensation that can lead to breathing issues and choking.
Videos of the cinnamon challenge on the Internet have gone viral, which is why it is increasing in popularity. In 2011, poison centers in the U.S. received 51 calls about exposure to cinnamon among teens. In the first three months of 2012, they received 139 calls, she says.
The "chubby bunny" marshmallow challenge has similar risks. In this game, kids stuff as many marshmallows into their mouth as they can, and try to say "chubby bunny." Two kids choked to death during this game.
"It is a little concerning that we are starting to see these things in younger children and preteens who are not aware of the serious consequences," she says.
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SOURCE: WebMD Health News