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Accidental Poisonings from Cannabis Gummies on the Rise in Children

By Dr. Erin Hunt, Hampton Roads Pediatrics

With marijuana becoming legal in a growing number of states, cannabis edibles like gummies are being manufactured.

It’s easy for children to mistake them for candy, as the packages can be bright and colorful with designs that mimic actual candy labels. And the gummies inside taste good, too. But the cannabidiols (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) ingredients are dangerous for children.

Accidental poisonings

Recently, our emergency department has reported seeing more children needing medical care after accidently ingesting these products, a worrisome trend happening across the country.

In 2020, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported more than 3,000 exposures to edible marijuana products involving children 12 and younger in the United States. Most of these exposures were in kids 5 years old or younger.

Types of products with marijuana

Parents should be aware of these dangers, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and be on the lookout for edible marijuana products such as:

  • Gummy candies, chocolate bars, lollipops, fudge, and other candies.
  • Baked goods, snack foods, and desserts, such as cookies, brownies, cupcakes, popcorn, and ice cream.
  • Sweetened beverages such as sodas and lemonade.

Children and teens can easily experience overdose effects, including:

  • Acting lethargic
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Trouble walking or sitting up
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Trouble breathing
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Anxiety
  • Panic

Keep your home safe from these products

The best way to keep your kids safe from marijuana edibles is not to have them in your home. If you do, here are some considerations:

  • Store them safely. If there are marijuana edibles in your home, store them the same way you would store medication or toxic cleaning products in an out-of-reach or locked location. They should also be in child-resistant packaging or containers.
  • Use with caution. Never consume marijuana edibles in front of children, either for medical or recreational purposes. Seeing the products could create temptation for kids.
  • Avoid buying THC and CBD edibles that come in packages that look like real candies. And be sure to put them back in a safe location immediately after use.
  • Talk to family members, friends, and caregivers. Ask anyone whose home your children spend time in if they use marijuana edibles. If a relative, friend, or caregiver does, make sure they store them safely. Be sure that they don't use them in front of your children or while caring for them.

What to do if your child eats an edible

If your child eats a cannabis edible, try to find out what and how much they ate. Look at the edible's wrapper to see how much THC it contains. Call the free poison control hotline at 1-800-222-1222 as soon as possible for advice.

If your child's symptoms seem severe or they are having difficulty breathing, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

Difference in potency

Edible THC products take longer than smoked marijuana to have an effect. Smoking or vaping takes just seconds to minutes, but a THC edible typically takes 30 to 60 minutes, after being eaten and digested to begin feeling the effects. The peak effect may happen three to four hours after ingesting.

Although both come from the cannabis plant, THC gummies can contain more than 20% THC while CBD gummies legally must contain less than 0.3%.

Although CBD is less likely to make children experience symptoms of a “high,” the safety and effectiveness of CBD for children is still being researched. Parents should practice caution when storing and using CBD gummies at home.

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About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.