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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Health experts are sounding the alarm on melatonin.
It’s a common remedy for troubled sleepers, but new research shows it’s also led to a rise in poisonings in kids.
“Melatonin exposures in children have been increasing for the last 10 years,” said Dr. Michael Beuhler, North Carolina Poison Control’s medical director.
In 2021, nearly 3/4 of calls to North Carolina Poison Control about melatonin were about children 5 and under.
Data shows cases more than doubled among that age group from 2018 to 2020.
Beuhler said a contributing factor is melatonin is being used more in the home and it’s accessible.
“When you think about melatonin and how it’s perceived and who’s using it, it really is perceived by most, and it is to a great extent, generally safe,” Beuhler said.
Safe doesn’t mean it can’t cause harm in high doses.
Beuhler warns parents not to let their guard down.
“If you don’t really perceive it as all that potentially dangerous, and you are potentially leaving it out at night to take at a certain time, that’s kind of a setup for a child to find those tablets and so that’s probably the reason why the exposures to melatonin, at least the calls that we got, are more skewed toward the younger children,” Beuhler said.
It’s not just happening in North Carolina.
Poison control centers across the United States are seeing a spike.
New CDC research finds the annual number of children accidentally ingesting melatonin increased 530 percent from 2012 to 2021.
That’s more than 260,000 reported cases.
Most of those cases were among children ages 5 or younger and the majority did not experience any symptoms.
Though, five children were put on a ventilator and two died.
One Raleigh mom said the rise in cases doesn’t surprise her, especially since melatonin is appealing to children.
“Honestly, they taste good now so it’s like they do think they’re just like snack treats,” said Maegan Campbell.
“Remember that children are curious, and they can do things you don’t expect,” Beuhler said.
Melatonin is not recommended for children under 3 and because it is considered a dietary supplement, it’s regulated less strictly by the FDA.
“And now we’ve got products that have five and 10 or more milligrams of melatonin, that’s a lot and some of these products aren’t always what you think they are,” Beuhler said.
Health experts encourage parents to keep melatonin locked away and out of reach of children.
“We actually keep ours up in like an upper cabinet,” Campbell said. “One, just for the sake of they’re not tall enough to reach them yet, but also that cabinet does have a child lock on it for us, it’s literally only us and family that know what’s up there.”
“The message really there is that this should be a wake-up call and a realization, treat it like a drug and use this as an opportunity to do one more round to protect your house and your children from these unintentional exposures, Beuhler said.
Don’t hesitate to call North Carolina Poison Control if you have concerns about melatonin or any other poisoning.
Fast Help: 1-800-222-1222.
It is free and available 24 hours a day.
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