A new study in the journal of Pediactics urges healthcare providers to be prepared to treat a growing number of children who are accidentally ingesting edible cannabis. It also serves as a warning to parents and caregivers to keep edibles out of the reach of young children.
Over the past 5 years, there has been a substantial increase in the number of children ingesting edible cannabis, resulting in acute toxicity for some of the young patients who were treated. According to the study, between the years 2017 and 2021, there were 7,043 cases of pediatric edible cannabis exposures recorded in the National Poison Data System (NPDS). The number of cases rose from 207 in 2017 to 3,054 cases in 2021, a whopping increase of 1,375%.
Two and 3-year-old children were at the highest risk for cannabis exposure. The study surmised at this age children are capable of opening containers and climbing to high spaces to access items of interest.
Of those receiving medical treatment, 573 children (8.1%) were admitted to critical care units and 1,027 (14.6%) were admitted to noncritical care units because they unwittingly consumed cannabis. A total of 2,550 children (36.2%) over the 5-year timeframe were treated and released from the Emergency Department.
The most common site of a child’s exposure to edible cannabis was found to be in their own homes (90.7%). The study recommends households with children:
- Keep edibles and other medication in a locked or child-resistant non-clear container.
- Store edible cannabis in a location unknown to the children preferably in a location other than the kitchen, away from other food items, to reduce the risk of a child viewing these products as normal food items.
- Refrain from using cannabis edibles in front of children.
- Avoid buying edibles that look like candy or a treat that a child might be eager to try.
- Ask family, friends, and caregivers to follow those precautions as well.
Illinois legalized recreational cannabis in 2020.
The Illinois Poison Center recommends these steps if you suspect a child has ingested cannabis, medication, or a potentially toxic material.
- Call 911 if the child is unconscious or is having difficulty breathing.
- Remain Calm – Most poison emergencies can be resolved quickly over the phone.
- Call the Poison Center Helpline at 1-800-222-1222 if you are concerned that your child has been exposed to a potentially harmful substance.