Melatonin overdoses on the rise for young kids, officials say

CHARLOTTE — As more people have trouble dozing off at night, melatonin supplements have become more popular than ever to help people get to sleep.

The rise in people using the sleep aid has also led to a noticeable spike in children overdosing on the supplement, according to local poison control centers.

North Carolina Poison Control said that nearly 75% of its calls about melatonin last year involved children ages 5 years old and younger.

Some people swear by the supplement, while others report unwanted side effects.

“Whenever I’m having a hard time going to sleep, it helps me go to sleep,” said teacher Toni Strachan.

“It gave me horrible nightmares,” Amanda Quintero told a reporter.

Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by your brain that helps with sleep. Melatonin supplements can be bought over the counter to assist with falling asleep.

Too much can be dangerous, especially for kids.

Across the country, melatonin poisonings in children are up 530% in the last decade.

Part of the problem may be the supplements’ resemblance to sweet treats.

“A case we had just the other day was 4-year-old who got 24 melatonin gummies, because if you see here, they look like candy,” said Gaylord Lopez, a doctor with Georgia Poison Center.

In North Carolina, cases related to kids and melatonin have doubled in the past four years. In each of the past two years, poison control reported more than 1,600 cases involving melatonin and kids 5 and under.

Melatonin has its benefits to help people of all ages fall asleep, but pharmacist Ira Katz warns it should be only used in certain cases.

“Any child under the age of 3 should never be using it,” Katz said. “Under the age of 5, only with, and actually, all children in my opinion, should discuss it with a health care provider.”

It’s an important reminder to follow the correct dosage when using melatonin and to keep all medicine, vitamins and supplements where kids can’t reach them.

The same reminder goes for pets. There are reports of pets getting into melatonin and overdosing as well.

(WATCH BELOW: Parent: Day care center investigated for giving kids melatonin)