For many, spring is a time of year for candy and sweets, most of which are safe in moderation. That said, we want everyone to be aware of a danger that has grown much more common in the past few years. Since the legalization of recreational marijuana use in many states, caregivers now need to be vigilant about keeping products out of children’s reach.* From 2017 to 2021, there was a 1375% increase in exposure to cannabis for children <6 years of age, and nearly ¼ of these patients required hospital admission.**
Edible Cannabis: Packaging, Accessibility, and Dose Concerns
Edible cannabis is available in many forms, including soda, chocolate bars, gummies, candies, chips, brownies, rice and marshmallow treats, among others.* Sometimes, benign, friendly packaging makes it that much more confusing and dangerous for families. As we spend time with extended families or friends, children may have access to edibles that are not locked/secured and are not labeled well. In addition, the doses present in these edibles can be very high, even for grown adults.
Symptoms and Treatment of Cannabis Exposure
Symptoms after exposure can include slowing (depression) of the nervous system, as well as vomiting, confusion, agitation and tremors. Symptoms can last for anywhere between 6 and 48 hours. Generally, monitoring in the emergency department or on a pediatric floor is the treatment, since there is no antidote.
Keeping Children Safe: Safety Measures at Home and Beyond
So, what is the take home message here? How do we keep our children safe? Make sure that if you have these products in your home, they are well-labeled, locked up, and out of children’s reach. Consider going through sweet treats before your child enjoys them to ensure they are safe. Think about asking questions of families whose homes your children may visit, and tell them about your safety concerns. If you are suspicious of an exposure, bring your child to an emergency room or call 911 if there is a medical emergency. If you’re ever unsure of any chemical exposure, Poison Control is an excellent resource to us and one we use often.
Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222
*Leonard, J, et. al “Treating an 18 – month -old who tested positive for cannabis exposure.” Pediatrics. March 2023 pp. 17-18.
**Tweet M, et. al “Pediatric Edible Cannabis Exposures and Toxicity: 2017-2021” PediatricsVol. 151, #2, February 2023