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Melatonin Poisoning on The Rise in Children

(WXYZ) — A popular over-the-counter sleep aid is behind a substantial jump in accidental poisonings.

A new report found calls to poison control centers have increased more than 530% over the past decade for children who had unintentionally ingested melatonin.

I’m a parent — I have four kids — so I know children can have trouble falling asleep. But unfortunately, the pandemic has caused even more anxiety and stress in kids. So, some parents turned to melatonin.

Now, melatonin is a hormone that our body makes. It regulates our sleep-wake cycles. So, I can see why parents think this supplement is harmless and will help kids feel sleepier before bed. But, if it's misused, melatonin can be dangerous. Why? Well, let me tell you what the study found.

Researchers analyzed data collected from poison control centers over the last ten years. What they found was that melatonin poisonings in children increased from just over 8,300 in 2012 to nearly 53,000 in 2021. So, cases soared by 530%.

For most of the kids, the overdose caused excessive sleepiness. However, during the study period, more than 4,000 children were hospitalized — five were placed on ventilators to help them breathe and two of them died.

There are not a lot of studies on melatonin and children. I would suggest that a parent talks to their pediatrician first before giving their child this supplement.

Parents should also be aware that melatonin can cause nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Those are also signs of an overdose, as are excessive tiredness and labored breathing. Right now, we don’t have an antidote if someone overdoses on melatonin.

So, if you have this supplement in your house, be sure the cap is closed properly and keep it out of a child’s reach, especially if it’s a gummy supplement as young kids will think it’s candy.

In fact, the study found that children under 5 had the largest increase in accidental ingestions. Also, talk to your children about medication safety and how it should only be given to them by an adult.

What can parents do to help kids sleep better? Here’s my advice:

  • Have a consistent bedtime. It should be the same time, every night.

  • Shut off electronics about an hour before bed. And don’t allow them in bedrooms.

  • Keep the bedroom dark, cool and quiet. Sixty-five degrees is a good temperature.

  • If your child has bedtime worries, consider mindfulness exercises like mediation. They can calm the body and decrease stress.

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