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In This Photo Illustration, Melatonin Gummies Are Seen On April 26, 2023 In Miami, Florida.
Expand / In this photo illustration, melatonin gummies are seen on April 26, 2023 in Miami, Florida.

Federal regulators have long opposed e-cigarette products that contain nicotine, fruit and sweet flavors, or edible cannabis products that contain drugs that appeal to children. Like name-brand candies.

But an unlikely candy-like product has been sending thousands of children to emergency rooms in America in recent years: melatonin, especially in gummy form. As a A new report from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionUse of over-the-counter sleep aids has increased in recent years — and so have visits to poison control centers and emergency rooms.

Melatonin, a neurohormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, has become popular for self-management of conditions such as sleep disorders and jet lag—even in children. Melatonin use among adults increased from 0.4 percent in 1999-2000 to 2.1 percent in 2017-2018. But the more people have these tempting, often candy-like treats in their homes, the more likely children are to grab them unsupervised. In fact, increased use led to a 530 percent increase in poison control center calls and a 420 percent increase in emergency room visits for accidental melatonin ingestion in infants and children between 2009 and 2020.

And the problem persists. In the new study, researchers Between 2019 and 2022, nearly 11,000 children went to the emergency room after accidentally taking melatonin supplements. Almost all cases involved a solid form of melatonin, with 47 percent specifically identified as a gum and 49 percent listed an unspecified marketed form, which may include gums. These melatonin-based emergency visits account for 7 percent of all emergency visits in infants and children who take unsupervised medications.

Candy-like melatonin products appear to be more prominent in the age group of children rushed to the emergency room. Most emergency room visits for unsupervised drug exposure are in infants and toddlers, but half of melatonin-related visits are in 3- to 5-year-olds. The researchers documented that in three-quarters of the emergency room visits, the melatonin-containing products came out of the bottles, suggesting that the young children either managed to open the bottles themselves or that the bottles were not properly sealed. Manufacturers are not required to use child-resistant packaging on melatonin supplements.

Fortunately, most cases are mild and have no side effects. Still, 6.5 percent of the more than 700 children were hospitalized for melatonin overdose. Study of 2022 The Poison Control Center, led by researchers in Michigan, has issued a recall to children who have taken melatonin for reported symptoms, including cardiovascular or central nervous system problems. For children given monitored doses of melatonin to improve sleep, known side effects include insomnia, increased nighttime bedwetting or urination, headache, dizziness, and agitation.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health– Part of the National Institutes of Health – Supervised use of melatonin in children appears to be safe for short-term use. However, there is not much information about use in children, and the effects of long-term regular use or acute exposure are not known. The NCCIH warns: “Because melatonin is a hormone, it is possible that melatonin supplements may affect hormonal development, including puberty, the menstrual cycle, and prolactin overproduction, but we do not know for sure.”

For the authors of the new study, the data “highlights the continued importance of educating parents and other caregivers about keeping all medications and supplements (including gum) out of the reach and sight of children.”