After a notable spike in unintentional drug poisonings in infants, health officials stress the importance of safe storage for medication and THC edible

Erie County Department of Health and Upstate New York Poison Center urge parents and caregivers: keep all drugs up and away from children

Imagine, for a moment, an infant. She’s learning to crawl, exploring the world and objects around her. One of those objects is an edible gummy, containing enough THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis) to cause intoxication, seizures, trouble breathing, and changes to heart rate and blood pressure. She puts it in her mouth, swallows, and when the poisoning effects set in – sometimes hours later – her parents panic.

This is a scene that played out over and over in Erie County and New York State. On one day over Memorial Day weekend in Erie County, five patients under age 10 years – three of them age 1 or younger – were seen in local emergency departments for accidental and unintentional drug ingestion.

These “accidental and unintentional” drug poisonings in children are 100% preventable.

Recent data related to these poisonings are on the minds of officials at the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) and the Upstate New York Poison Center (UNYPC). In 2022, UNYPC was on track to handle the highest number of cases for marijuana edibles in its 65-year history, a trend that has accelerated in 2023.

“The message we need people to hear is that drugs and edibles are poisonous to children. If you use them, you must keep them out of sight and out of reach of any kids in the home,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “The use of any drug has real risks, and those risks are amplified in young children, who are smaller and more likely to experience severe effects.”

Parents and caregivers should make sure that any childcare setting or household where a child spends time follows best practices for keeping drugs, edibles and other poisons “up and away.” “Children are curious, and some drugs and edibles can look and taste like candy or food. Parents must make sure that their environment is safe on all fronts,” continued Dr. Burstein. “This is about your child’s health and safety. For anyone who spends time around your kids, insist that their drugs and edibles are stored securely.”   

“We are concerned about the steady increase in calls to our poison center for cannabis-related products being eaten by young children. 100% of the time, these children need to be seen by a doctor,” said Upstate New York Poison Center Administrative Director Michele Caliva. “This is not just a problem in Erie County, but all over the state. We remind you to call us any time a child eats or inhales a cannabis product at 1-800-222-1222. We urge all families to keep cannabis products up high and out of reach of children.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Up and Away campaign has several resources for parents and grandparents for safer medication storage and medication safety. And with summer travel on the horizon, there are tips and recommendations for staying safer away from home.

From UNYPC:

If you are over 21 and choose to have marijuana edibles (i.e., gummies, cannabis oil for baking, weed candies) remember:

  • Keep all marijuana containing products up high and out of reach of children
  • Consider buying a medication lock box
  • Save this number for Upstate NY Poison Center, 1-800-222-1222, to your phone
  • If you suspect a child has swallowed or ingested any form of marijuana, call 1-800-222-1222. Symptoms/reactions are often delayed.

#

Upstate New York Poison Center: upstate.edu/poison
1-800-222-1222. In an emergency or if a person is not responsive, call 9-1-1.

Up and Away – Put your medicines up and away and out of sight

Buffalo and Erie County Addiction Hotline: 716-831-7007

SAMSHA: Marijuana Risks Are Real

Healthy Children

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