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Holiday Baking Ingredients Can Be Dangerous, Can Make Kids High

Holiday baking ingredients can be dangerous

While you’re mixing up batches of cookies and other goodies this holiday season, be sure to keep an eye on your baking ingredients. Some young people have an unhealthy interest in certain items that can make them high or cause a medical emergency.

Holiday goodies can give kids a thrill

Many children enjoy helping make holiday treats and licking the spoon after the batter has been mixed, but some kids are looking for more than something sweet to eat. According to toxicologist Christina Hantsch, MD, of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Loyola University Health System, some kids are always looking “to create something new that will get attention, potentially create a drug-like effect and can pass under the radar of law enforcers.” We should add “parents” to that comment as well.

What ingredients should parents keep on their radar? One is cinnamon, which some children use in the Cinnamon Challenge. This dare involves trying to swallow one tablespoon of ground cinnamon in 60 seconds without drinking any water.

This seemingly innocent act causes the mouth to dry out rapidly and swallowing becomes extremely difficult. This is followed by severe coughing and choking, burning of the mouth and throat, and vomiting.

Pneumonia can eventually develop if the lining of the lungs become swollen. For children who have asthma, the risk is especially great.

Between January 1 and November 30, 2012, the American Association of Poison Control Centers received 272 reports of cinnamon abuse or misuse among teenagers. That number is up from 51 for the year 2011.

You might also want to keep a close eye on nutmeg. This popular spice contains myristicin, a substance that can cause hallucinations and produce a marijuana-like high if consumed in large amounts. Kids have been known to snort, eat, or smoke nutmeg to get high.

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One problem with nutmeg abuse is that unlike cinnamon, the effects are delayed. Thirty to 60 minutes after using nutmeg, people experience severe gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea.

The drug-like effects don’t kick in for several hours, so anyone who uses nutmeg to get high may believe it has not worked and take more, which can result in a serious overdose. Dizziness, paranoia, and difficulty urinating are part of the high, and it may be especially damaging for individuals with heart problems.

If you have aerosol cans of whipping cream or spray oil among your baking and holiday ingredients, these are potential problems as well. Nitrous oxide gases in these containers, when inhaled, can cause headache, dizziness, slurred speech, wheezing, nausea, and vomiting. Depending on how much gas children inhale, symptoms may also include hallucinations, distorted perceptions of time and space, and emotional disturbances.

One more seemingly innocent holiday ingredient to watch is the marshmallow. While children don’t get high on marshmallows, they may engage in a dare called Chubby Bunny.

This activity involves stuffing as many marshmallows into your mouth as you can and then trying to say the words “Chubby Bunny.” Hantsch noted that two children have died while playing this game when they choked on the marshmallows.

So what’s in your kitchen this season? If you have children in the house, take an inventory of your holiday baking ingredients, and be sure the only highs in your home this year are due to good cheer.

American Association of Poison Control Centers
Loyola University Health System

Image: Morguefile