It’s every cannabis-consuming parents’ worst nightmare: your curious child has somehow gotten into your edibles. We all know how creative and innovative children can be; despite your best efforts to conceal your adult treats, accidents happen.
The panic and terror parents can feel when they realize their child has ingested edibles (often far more than is recommended dosage for adults) is very worrying. The evidence also shows that these accidental overdoses are happening more frequently.
In an interview with HuffPost, Dr. Jim Cotter, an emergency medicine physician in Colorado, has seen firsthand that “Exposure of marijuana products to children has increased since both medical and recreational marijuana has been legalized, especially in Colorado.”
So how do you protect your child’s health? These critical steps can make all the difference when handling accidental ingestion.
Be Aware of Symptoms/Signs
Most times, you will not see your child ingesting edibles, and that is why it is important to know what a THC overdose in children looks like.
“THC has more severe consequences for children than it does for adults,” Dr. Kevin C. Osterhoudt, the medical director at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia for The Poison Control Center, said.
He added that symptoms seen in kids who eat an edible include loss of balance, drowsiness, or appearing “out of it.”
Children who have eaten a large dosage might have trouble breathing, vomiting, seizing, and becoming comatose. Accidental ingestions occur most frequently in children from three to five years.
Many kids should be able to express discomfort or symptoms verbally. If they do, never dismiss their concerns.
Take Action ASAP
If you happen to witness a child ingesting edibles, immediately remove the edible from their mouth. The ideal situation is that they can be stopped before they chew and swallow the edible.
Once you know that a THC edible has been ingested, it is crucial to get as much information as possible from your child.
“Try to find out what type of edible the child ate, how much it looks like they ate, and any information on how much THC was in the edible,” Osterhoudt said.
If the child consumed edibles from your supply, there is a good chance you will be able to find out that information quicker. Often children will eat the edibles because they resemble candy.
If you keep edibles in your home, it is important to know what they look so if a child describes the edible, you will know which one they are referring to. Once you know the type of edible ingested, you can take the next step.
Find Professional Help
Once you find out as much as you can as quickly as possible, call a poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. They will advise you on the next steps, sometimes even calling 9-1-1 for you if necessary.
However, if the symptoms seem extremely serious, take your child directly to your closest emergency room or call 9-1-1 and bypass the call to a poison control center.
Cotter says that severe symptoms might require IV fluids and/or supplemental oxygen.
“In very rare instances, some children have developed coma and have needed to be placed on ventilators for respiratory support. The duration of coma is typically one to two days, and full recovery is expected with supportive care,” Cotter said.
Regardless of symptoms, it is best to allow health care professionals to develop a treatment plan.
Take Preventative Measures
After your child has the treatment they need, the next step is creating a system at home that will prevent them from reaccessing THC edibles.
Osterhoudt shared a few suggestions.
“Don’t eat THC edibles in front of children. Store THC edibles in a secure place ― like a lockbox ― that is out of reach and out of sight of children. Never buy THC edibles that are made in counterfeit packages that look just like real candies,” Osterhoudt said.
Any edibles you purchase should also be in tamper-proof packaging; this allows you to monitor whether the package has been opened or not. Pediatrician Dr. Candice Jones advises that adults “supervise your supply, so you notice if some is missing.”
She also recommends the same step Osterhoudt does: THC edibles should only be consumed during private time. Accidents happen, and parents with the best intentions can make mistakes when securing their stash.
However, the actions taken when a child ingests THC is significant. Use these four steps to not only protect your child at the moment but to keep them protected.
One final piece of advice is to have an honest conversation with your children about marijuana. While the age at which this conversation happens is up to parents if you consume cannabis, one of the best ways to combat your children ingesting it is to open up the dialogue. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to consume THC edibles in the safety of your home, and with the tools you just read, your child will also be safe.