Experts advise against giving melatonin to your restless child due to poisoning fears

Parents are being warned not to give melatonin to children following an increase in accidental poisonings.

Experts said there’s no evidence the over-the-counter supplement helps them sleep, and they have no idea what’s actually in many products.

The number of children hospitalized after ingesting melatonin has increased sixfold as it becomes more popular.

Taking too much can cause vomiting, diarrhea and even seizures, especially in small children with low tolerance.

Our body naturally produces the hormone to help regulate the circadian clocks that control our sleep/wake cycles.

Melatonin supplements can improve your sleep if you have disrupted circadian rhythms due to certain life circumstances, such as jet lag or working at night.

But they are classified as a dietary supplement, which means they have less oversight, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).

This means that dosages and ingredients are not uniform and the vast majority of labels are misleading, he added.

Increasingly, the supplement is sold in gummy or chewable form in sweet flavors like fruit punch, a feature experts warn makes them appealing to children.

Pediatric Melatonin Ingestions Reported Poison Control in the US 2012-2021

A shelf of melatonin supplements formulated for children

A shelf of melatonin supplements formulated for children

Olly kids melatonin gummies

Melatonin berry children's gummies

Olly kids melatonin gummies

What is melatonin and how does it work?

– Melatonin is one of the most used sleep aids in the US

– It is a hormone that your body produces naturally in response to changes in daylight

– Melatonin levels increase in the evening and promote sleep

– With the guidance of a pediatrician, it can be safe for children

– The melatonin content can vary greatly depending on the product, so parents are asked to exercise caution

– Should only be used if other methods, such as limiting screen time and setting an earlier bedtime, fail

Dr. M. Adeel Rishi, vice president of the AASM, said, “The availability of melatonin as gummies or chewable tablets makes it more tempting to give to children and more prone to overdose.”

He added: “Parents should speak directly with their child’s healthcare professional before giving their children melatonin products.”

“Behavioral interventions other than medication are often successful in addressing insomnia in children.”

While it can help insomniacs fall asleep faster and stay asleep, experts warn that less is more.

Take one to three milligrams two hours before bed, according to Johns Hopkins sleep expert Dr. Luis F. Buenaver.

Melatonin has become the go-to over-the-counter pill for people who struggle to sleep, and the market is booming.

Sales rose from $285 million in 2016 to $821 million in 2020, according to federal reports.

The supplement is also ubiquitous. A bottle of 30 tablets can be bought from almost every pharmacy for as little as $10 (£9.10).

The AASM’s warning comes after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released in June said annual pediatric intakes of melatonin increased 530 percent from 2012 to 2021, time when there was a total of 260,435 intakes.

Melatonin accounted for nearly 5% of all pediatric poisoning cases in 2021, compared to 0.6% in 2012, and was the most commonly ingested substance among children reported to national poison control centers.

Fruity-flavored gummies appeal to kids, as do celebrity endorsements.

Fruity-flavored gummies appeal to kids, as do celebrity endorsements.

Melatonin sales have increased, especially during the Covid pandemic

Melatonin sales have increased, especially during the Covid pandemic

Demographic breakdown of poison control reports.

Demographic breakdown of poison control reports.

Hospitalizations due to melatonin intake also increased in this period, particularly in children aged five and under, with five children requiring mechanical ventilation and two dying. But only 1 percent of the children needed intensive care.

Although the vast majority of cases reported to poison control were asymptomatic, about 84%, the most severe symptoms involved the gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, or central nervous system.

Melatonin overdose is rarely fatal, but more severe cases can cause very low blood pressure, disorientation and tremors.

Vomiting is a common side effect of melatonin poison, and when your child starts talking, it’s time to go to the emergency room.

Melatonin content can vary widely, with the greatest variation in gummy formulations most likely to be used by children.

“In addition, serotonin, a breakdown product of melatonin, was found in 26% of the supplements at potentially clinically significant doses that may increase the risk of serotonin toxicity in children,” the CDC reported.

Dietary supplements such as melatonin and multivitamins are not subject to the same strict regulatory barriers as prescription drugs and biologics.

The safety of melatonin is guaranteed by the Food and Drug Administration only to prove that the product is not safe in the event that it proves that it is harming people and then take legal action against the manufacturer.

“Rather than turning to melatonin, parents should work to encourage their children to develop good sleep habits, such as setting a regular bedtime and wake-up time, having a bedtime routine, and limit screen time as bedtime approaches,” said Dr. Rishi.

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