Mar 7, 2024 - Health

Pediatric ER visits linked to melanotin soar

Illustration of a giant teddy bear taking up an entire hospital bed.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

About 11,000 infants and young children landed in hospital emergency departments between 2019 and 2022 because they accidentally ingested melatonin, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today.

Why it matters: More unsupervised pediatric exposure to the sleep aid coincides with a major uptick in adult use.

  • It also corresponds with the growing availability of melatonin supplements as a flavored product and in the form of gummies, researchers say.
  • Generally, melatonin products are not required to have child-resistant packaging, they said.

By the numbers: Melatonin use among adults quintupled from 0.4% in 1999-2000 to 2.1% in 2017-2018, per the CDC report.

  • There was a 530% increase in poison center calls for pediatric melatonin use between 2012 and 2021 and a 420% increase in emergency department visits between 2009 and 2020, per the report.
  • The study found few visits resulted in hospitalization. However, they warn, another study found the actual content of melatonin products doesn't always match the strength or ingredients of their labels, posing additional risks.
  • Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that can cause drowsiness, headache, dizziness and nausea.

The bottom line: Researchers say the findings are a reminder for parents to store melatonin products out of sight and out of reach of their children — and in child-proof containers, when possible.

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