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ER visits for children accidentally eating melatonin have spiked drastically: CDC

Unsupervised exposures of infants and young children to melatonin have increased substantially in recent years, landing thousands of children in the emergency room.

The number of kids aged 5 and younger who went to an emergency room for unsupervised melatonin ingestion increased 420 percent from 2009 to 2020, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More recently, melatonin was implicated in approximately 11,000 emergency department visits among infants and young children between 2019–2022.

Those ER visits highlight the continued need to educate parents and other caregivers about the importance of keeping all medications and supplements out of children’s reach and sight, the CDC said.

Based on nearly 300 identified cases, the researchers estimated that 10,930 emergency department visits occurred during the 2019-2022 time period, which accounted for about 7 percent of all ER visits in the U.S. for unsupervised medication exposures in infants and young children.

More than half of accidental ingestions involved children between the ages of 3 and 5, and most did not result in hospitalization.

At least half of emergency room visits for melatonin ingestions involved flavored products, such as gummies or chewable tablets, that are frequently used by and might appeal to young children, the agency noted.

The increase in ER visits coincided with a major spike in melatonin use by U.S. adults, who use it as a sleep aid.

Melatonin is sold as a dietary supplement, so it’s not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. A recent investigation of melatonin products published in the journal JAMA found that the actual content of the melatonin product was not always the same as the labeled ingredients or strength.

Most products contained more melatonin than what was on the label — some had dangerously high levels, as one brand’s product contained nearly 350 percent more. Others also contained high levels of cannabidiol, or CBD.

“These discrepancies in ingredients or strength could pose additional risk” to children, the CDC researchers wrote.

Melatonin products also don’t require child-resistant packaging.

Among ER visits that documented a container type, approximately three-quarters involved melatonin accessed from bottles, suggesting that infants and children opened bottles or that bottles were not properly closed, the CDC found.

Selecting products with child-resistant packaging might be advisable in homes with young children.

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