SHREVEPORT, La. — A study done by researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan says that accidental melatonin overdoses in children have jumped 530% in the last decade.
During the course of their 10-year study, they say more than 4,000 kids were hospitalized with melatonin overdoses. Most of these were teens, and many were thought to be suicide attempts.
Five kids ended up on breathing machines. Two children, both under 2 years old, died.
Most children affected showed no symptoms. About 17% did have symptoms, including vomiting and altered breathing.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the body produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It helps control the sleep cycle by making a person sleepy when it gets dark. It is also an over-the-counter sleep aid.
Dr. Sheila Asghar, a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics and neurology at LSU Health Shreveport whose work includes sleep medicine, says the Michigan study did not specify whether the children had any other issues or were taking other medication. She says melatonin is known to be safe at recommended doses. But it should be put in medicine cabinets and not left out for kids’ easy access.
“So, when you have bottles of gummies lying around, and kids have easy access to that, it’s possible that they got into it, and then they consumed this amount that they shouldn’t have. So that’s one thing,” Asghar said. “The second thing is, of course, there is a lot out there that shows the benefits of melatonin, because we know it’s a natural compound, it’s safe. And I think, then, parents feel comfortable. And sometimes they may not necessarily talk to their pediatrician or their doctors.”
Asghar says before giving children melatonin, parents should consult their pediatrician, especially if the child has a health condition or is on other medication.
Melatonin is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. So over-the-counter versions, especially gummies, may not contain exactly what the label says, including the amount of melatonin in each serving. This is one reason Asghar recommends using brands made in the USA.