Melatonin for children: Is it safe to give? – Grow Magazine

Melatonin Pills (Photo: Fripik)

A study published last week by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that between 2012 and 2021, melatonin intake in the pediatric population increased by 530%. There has also been an increase in hospitalization of children and more serious consequences, mainly due to the expressive increase in involuntary use of this substance in children under 5 years of age, which is similar in 94% of cases.

By 2020, the CDC has already warned that this hormone has become the most frequently consumed substance among children reported to national poison control centers.

A recent study assessed more than 260,000 cases of melatonin intake in the pediatric population. For most children, the most common symptom of melatonin overdose was excessive drowsiness, ranging from the parents being able to wake the child easily in situations where it was not possible to wake them. However, five children needed to be placed on a ventilator and two died.

In a note, Karima Lelak, lead researcher on the article, warned that parents should treat melatonin like any other drug and keep it out of the reach of their children. “It’s not just a sticky vitamin,” he said. “For example, it needs to be stored properly in the medicine cabinet instead of the bedside table.”

The highest increase in poisoning (38%) was observed during the height of the epidemic from 2019 to 2020. “We believe that more people needed melatonin to cope with the epidemic,” Lelac said.

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone (known as “sleep hormone”) that is secreted by the body (more precisely by the pineal endocrine gland in the brain), in the evening, which acts as a kind of regulator of the biological clock and induces drowsiness. That is, darkness is a trigger for the activity of this gland, and with light, in the morning, it is interrupted.

Exogenous melatonin is one that is produced by laboratories, and it is not exactly the same as what we make, it is known. In the United States, the drug is sold over-the-counter at pharmacies in liquid, gummy, chewable, capsule, and tablet form, all with different dosage instructions.

In Brazil, in October 2021, Anvisa approved the sale of the substance in the form of a dietary supplement (as is already happening in the United States, by the FDA) with the following caution: Should not be done which requires constant attention. “

Children with insomnia (Photo: Fripik)

Children with insomnia (Photo: Fripik)

But children can’t?

There is a lot of research to understand the consequences of melatonin use. They will have sleep disorders, mainly nightmares, irritability and sleep deprivation during the day. Another problem with indiscriminate eating is that the body gets distracted by taking hormones, which results in reduced natural production. “Although there are no long-term studies on the use of the substance in children, there is concern among doctors as to whether it may interfere with premature puberty,” said Lucian Baratelli, a neuropsychiatrist and creator of Neuro Sem Neura Leaf.

According to experts, “there is no scientific evidence to support the use of this substance in children under 5 years of age. However, it may be indicated, for example, those who are part of an autistic spectrum disorder, with low melatonin production, including ADHD or circadian disorders, which would be as if the biological clock had not been synchronized with social function. Lucien further emphasizes that caution is required even in the indications for use, and always strictly follow the dosage prescribed by the doctor. After all, it is a hormone that the baby is taking.

How to help your baby sleep

Sleep deprivation is a big challenge for parents in different age groups, but it is important to understand that they are normal and the number of waking hours decreases year after year. Therefore, the neuropathologist warns: “First-line treatment will always be a behavioral intervention. That is, the use of any drug should only occur in certain cases where the child’s life has been severely damaged due to sleep deprivation”.

This is part of a behavioral intervention that assesses what is bothering children and provides an environment that allows the child to rest more peacefully.

Here are some sleep hygiene tips:

1 – Schedule a time for the baby to sleep. In particular, he should be awake to learn to “catch” sleep.

2 – Choose an item that serves as a precaution during sleep, such as a diaper, a washcloth, a pillow.

3 – Make a sleeping routine, such as a warm and comfortable bath, breastfeeding, change pajamas, brush teeth, put the baby to bed, pause for a few minutes, silently, take a lesson, meditate …

4 – Do not start sleeping in the living room and then do not move to the bedroom. When waking up, the baby may be “scared” because they slept in one place and woke up in another.

5 – Avoid using electronics while your baby sleeps. They emit blue light, which inhibits melatonin production.

6-Reduce the intensity of light in the room: Using a lamp helps send a message to the brain that it is making melatonin and during sleep.

Source: Daniel Negri, Pediatrician, Grupo Perinatal, from Rio de Janeiro (RJ)

* Tip – No matter how many times your child wakes up at night, a good way to know if he is getting enough rest is to observe his behavior during the day: if he shows distraction, drowsiness, irritability and aggression..

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