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Melatonin overdoses sending more kids to the ER, experts say

Photo: Adene Sanchez/iStockphoto

Parents should talk with a health care professional before giving melatonin supplements to kids and teens, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine cautions.

According to a recently published AASM health advisory, use of melatonin – a supplement people take to try to improve their sleep – has increased across all ages over the past two decades. “With this increased use, there are growing reports of melatonin overdose, calls to poison control centers and emergency room visits for children.”

In the United States, melatonin is considered a dietary supplement. That means it isn’t subject to the same level of Federal Drug Administration oversight as over-the-counter or prescription medications. 

The AASM warns that melatonin content doesn’t always match the amount shown on a product’s label. It cites a 2017 study showing that dosages can range from one-half to more than four times the stated amount. The widest variance was found in chewable tablets – the type most often given to kids. 

Other recommendations for parents and caregivers:

  • Ask your child’s pediatrician about alternatives to melatonin. Many sleep problems can be better managed with a change in schedule, habits or behaviors.
  • If you choose to give your child melatonin, ask about correct dosages and timing.

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