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2 infants dead, many kids hospitalized due to Melatonin overdose which has skyrocketed in the last decade

2 infants dead, many kids hospitalized due to Melatonin overdose which has skyrocketed in the last decade

From 8,000 reports of melatonin overdose in 2012, the number of calls has risen drastically to 52,000 in 2021.

Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone, promotes sleep. Now sleep-inducing melatonin pills have become a bedside staple and are widely available in pill, liquid, and gummy forms. However, they are proving to be dangerous for children who either accidentally consume them or are provided them by a caregiver.

In the last decade, Melatonin overdoses have skyrocketed in kids, according to a CDC report. Calls made to poison control centers about kids who took too much melatonin increased by 530 percent in 10 years! From 8,000 reports in 2012, the number of calls has risen drastically to 52,000 in 2021. Per INSIDER, the largest yearly increase happened between 2019 to 2020, during the pandemic. And most of these calls involved boys under the age of 5 who unintentionally overdosed. 

Dr. Ritwick Agrawal, a sleep medicine specialist and assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, believes that the use of melatonin supplements increased during to growing rates of insomnia, especially during the pandemic. The supplements that cost around $10 for a small bottle do not require a prescription, leading to people purchasing too much of them without a doctor's supervision. 



 

 "I'm also an ICU doctor and I end up seeing a lot of poisonings in my practice, and in general, I've not seen a whole lot of melatonin overdose [in adults], but in children, I can easily imagine," Agrawal told Insider. "Even a small overdose can cause a lot of problems." There were some serious cases that involved five children who required mechanical ventilation

Of them, two babies aged 3 months and 13 months died at their homes. One ingested the medication intentionally and the reason for the other is unknown, the report noted. The researchers insisted that child-resistant packaging for melatonin "should be considered" and that healthcare providers need to warn parents about the supplement’s "potential toxic consequences."

Representative image source: Getty | Photo by Grace Cary

 

The study’s lead researcher Dr. Karima Lelak, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at the Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit told BuzzFeed News, "Parents should really see melatonin just as any other medication that has the potential to do harm to kids, and it can be even more dangerous because it can look like candy. If a parent takes their melatonin after reading this paper and puts it in their medicine cabinet, I am humbled because I think that's really a big take-home point: safe storage."

A spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Dr. Shalini Paruthi, told the outlet that parents need to wait until their kids are at least 3 years old before giving them melatonin as children younger than that have "unformed neurological and endocrine systems." Seeking the advice of a pediatrician before giving kids these pills is strongly recommended.

Experts are now urging parents to call poison control at 1-800-222-1222 if they suspect kids misusing melatonin. Per Lelak, it's tough to tell how much is too much and as it depends on how old someone is, their body size, and if they're showing any symptoms after ingestion.

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