A spoonful of sugar might help the medicine go down, but a spoonful of cinnamon is just going to make you gag, cough -- and possibly send you to the hospital. That's the message doctors are sending as a decade-old prank goes viral, thanks to the help of YouTube.

The "cinnamon challenge" sounds simple enough: take a spoonful of cinnamon and attempt to swallow it down without drinking any water. The problem is it really can't be done. Cinnamon powder sticks to the inside of the mouth, drying it out and making it almost impossible to swallow.

Judging by the thousands of "cinnamon challenge" videos loaded onto YouTube, the typical reaction is to cough out a big cloud of orange-coloured powder, dubbed "dragon breath."

Some "challengers" find the cinnamon so spicy on their mouths and noses, they jump up and down in pain. Or they gag and vomit. And that's the best case scenario.

Missouri teen Dejah Reed had a worse reaction. She actually developed a lung infection after she inhaled cinnamon powder and irritated her lungs.

Dr. Robert Zaid of Providence Hospital warns that fine cinnamon dust can easily get caught in the lungs and can be difficult to get out.

"Your lungs can kind of collapse on you. There have been several cases reported where kids needed ventilator support because they weren't able to maintain their airway," he says.

The "cinnamon challenge" has been a prank that can be traced back to 2001, according to the website KnowYourInternetMeme.com. The trend seems to have taken off of YouTube in recent months, helped in large part by popular comedian GloZell, who loaded a video of herself attempting the challenge.

In that video, viewed more than 9.5 million times, GloZell seems to be confused about how big a spoon she should use. She attempts to swallow a soup ladle-full of cinnamon. It doesn't go well.

Of course, no matter how many times videos are uploaded showing people failing the cinnamon challenge, there will always be someone convinced they can master it. Many of the results are uploaded to a website called CinnamonChallenge.com.

That website comes with as clear a warning as you can get:

"Do not attempt the cinnamon challenge without talking with a doctor. Obviously, they are going to tell you not to do it," the site warns in big block letters.

"The cinnamon challenge can be dangerous and shouldn't be taken lightly. You never want to purposely or mistakenly inhale any substances such as cinnamon. It's going to burn, you are going to cough, and regret you tried."

Follow Angela Mulholland on Twitter: @angemulholland