Dr. Steven Lipshultz of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine said the decades-old stunt in which thrill-seeking teens swallow a tablespoon of dry cinnamon with no water, gag and spew out a cloud of orange dust went viral in 2012.
The so-called "cinnamon challenge" resulted in more than 50,000 YouTube video clips and medical treatment, including ventilator support, for some teens with collapsed lungs, USA Today reported.
Although the common spice poses no problem as a food flavoring, swallowing a dry tablespoon can cause immediate physical effects -- coughing, choking and burning of the mouth, nose and throat, Lipshultz said.
But it can be much worse, he said.
A paper by Lipshultz published online in the journal Pediatrics found attempts to swallow a large quantity of cinnamon might result in "long-lasting lesions, scarring and inflammation of the airway" or lung damage.