20/12/2012 07:32 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Children Hospitalised After Using Cinnamon And Marshmallows To Get 'High'

Children hospitalised after using cinnamon and marshmallows to get 'high' Alamy

Children as young as nine years old are using common baking ingredients - cinnamon, nutmeg and even marshmallows - to get a cheap drug-like high, according to an expert.

The craze is so bad that several youngsters have been admitted to hospital.

Now parents have been warned to monitor their kitchen cupboards – especially over the Christmas holidays when they are loaded with baking ingredients.

Dr Christina Hantsch, from Loyola University Hospital in Chicago, said a dozen nine-year-olds were treated in emergency departments.

They had been attempting to perform an internet craze known as the 'Cinnamon Challenge', which involves trying to swallow one tablespoon of ground cinnamon without water.

"One girl had seen videos on the Internet and wanted to try it with her friends," Dr Hantsch said.

"The dry, loose cinnamon triggers a violent coughing effect and also a burning sensation that actually can lead to breathing and choking hazards.

"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."

She added that she was concerned what was once horseplay by older teenagers is now being copied by younger children.

"They have easy access to ingredients like cinnamon and marshmallows and think it is cool to do what their older peers are doing," she said.

Another 'game' involving marshmallows continues to attract followers.

"Two children have actually choked to death attempting this game, so it is not to be taken lightly," she said.

Ground nutmeg has been snorted, smoked and eaten in large quantities in an attempt to produce a drug-like high.

Other common household products that are also being abused are hand sanitiser, ink markers and glue.

Dr Hantsch said: "Seemingly silly games can have sinister effects and the holidays are the worst time for this to happen.

"Kids have more free time, greater access to the Internet and more opportunities to get together during vacations. And at Christmas, the kitchen pantry is loaded for holiday baking.

"Adults are wise to keep an eye on their children to make sure they are using the ingredients for their proper use."

In 2011, poison centres received 51 calls about teen exposure to cinnamon. In just the first three months of 2012, they had received 139 calls. The American Association of Poison Control Centers said that of those, 122 were classified as intentional misuse or abuse and 30 callers required medical evaluation.