The number of children mistakenly poisoned by the over-the-counter sleep medication melatonin has increased by 530 percent in the last decade, according to a new study. The overdose produces severe sleepiness in most youngsters, but it can lead to hospitalization and even death in some, according to the study. “The highest increases were inadvertent ingestions or accidental ingestions in children under the age of five,” said lead researcher Dr. Karima Lelak of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit.
Common Symptoms of Melatonin Overdose
Excessive drowsiness is the most common symptom of a melatonin overdose, which can range from being able to quickly awaken the child to be unable to do so. The source of these substantial increases in accidental poisonings, according to Lelak, is rising stress levels in the United States, which make sleeping more difficult. As a result of these pressures, the sleep supplement has become increasingly popular and accessible to children. This was especially true during the epidemic, when parents and their children were reaching for the melatonin, according to Lelak.
“I believe that with the day-to-day stressors of dealing with the pandemic, more people were using melatonin to fall asleep,” she added.
From January 1, 2012, through December 31, 2021, Lelak and her colleagues gathered data on more than 260,000 children who were poisoned by melatonin and reported it to the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System. Poisonings climbed from around 8,340 in 2012 to over 53,000 in 2021 during that time period. The greatest rise (38%) occurred between 2019 and 2020 when the epidemic was at its peak.
According to the researchers, accidental melatonin intake accounted for approximately 5% of all pediatric ingestions reported to poison control centers in 2021, compared to less than 1% in 2012.
Over the course of the study, more children, particularly those aged 5 and under, required hospitalization due to the dangerous consequences of melatonin excesses. According to Lelak’s team, five youngsters required ventilators and two died.
According to Lelak, parents should treat melatonin like any other drug and keep it out of their children’s grasp.
“It’s not simply a gummy vitamin,” she noted, “so they should keep it in their medicine cabinets rather than on their nightstand.”
The findings were published online on June 3 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Dr. Matthew Harris, an emergency room physician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens, New York, claimed melatonin overdoses had increased in the ER.
“This study is concerning because any pharmaceutical overdose [that] rises by 530 percent should raise some red lights,” he added.
Melatonin excess usually manifests itself in children as drowsiness. “Most youngsters only required a brief time of observation in emergency rooms, if any evaluation was required at all,” Harris added.
Melatonin, on the other hand, can produce nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Melatonin, according to Lelak, is not a benign medicine and can be deadly if used in excess. “Melatonin is not as safe as many people believe,” she stated.
“Like any other drug, [it] should be kept out of the reach of children at all times,” Harris advised parents.