During the past decade, there has been an increase in pediatric ingestions of melatonin reported to US poison control centers, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Melatonin is a widely available over-the-counter dietary supplement used as a sleep aid for both adults and children. To assess the number of melatonin ingestions in the pediatric population, the study authors reviewed data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS) from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2021.

Findings showed that from 2012 to 2021, the annual number of melatonin ingestions by children increased 530% (from 8337 in 2012 to 52,563 in 2021). There were 260,435 pediatric melatonin ingestions reported to NPDS during this 10-year period, most of which were unintentional (94.3%) and involved children 5 years of age and younger. The largest yearly increase occurred from 2019 to 2020 (37.9%), coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and central nervous system symptoms were reported in some children, though most were asymptomatic (82.8%). Among all pediatric melatonin ingestions, more serious outcomes were reported in 1.6% (4555) of cases.

During this time period, hospitalizations associated with melatonin ingestion also increased, primarily due to unintentional ingestions in children 5 years and younger. Of the 27,795 patients who sought care at a health care facility, 4097 (14.7%) were hospitalized and 287 (1.0%) required intensive care.

The authors noted that variability in melatonin content in products, particularly chewable formulations used by children, may have contributed to the increase in hospitalizations and serious outcomes, though the cause of the increase remains unclear.

“This report highlights the need for more research into the causes of increased melatonin ingestions among children and for public health initiatives to raise awareness,” the authors concluded.

Reference

Lelak K, Vohra V, Neuman MI, Toce MS, Sethuraman U. Pediatric melatonin ingestions — United States, 2012–2021. Published online June 3, 2022. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7122a1