‘Legal does not mean safe’ — CHEO warns of spike in ER visits for young children consuming cannabis edibles

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CHEO asked parents to be “mindful” and ensure edibles are kept out of reach and locked in a child-proof container.

“We know having a product in a home is automatically a risk factor for children to access and ingest that product, especially when children are at home more,” Bechard said.

Frontline physicians including Bechard and her emergency department colleagues sounded the alarm after noticing the sharp increase in cases involving young children — between three and six years old in a “typical case,” she said.

Citing recent studies from the Canadian Pediatric Society, Bechard said, “it does seem to be a pattern that’s replicating across the nation.”

“Typically these kids are exploring, they’re more mobile, they’re more independent and maybe don’t have as much supervision as they did when they were infants,” Bechard said. “The classic presentation is a child, often between three to six, with a sudden decreased level of consciousness — so the child will look persistently sleepy, parents will have trouble waking them — and this is of course very concerning and they’ll come to the emergency department.”

Sometimes doctors will have the benefit of learning that the child had ingested cannabis, but in other cases where doctors don’t know the cause, it often prompts a number of “invasive and ultimately unnecessary testing,” Bechard said, “So that’s concerning for physicians and patients and families, because it can already be a very stressful event.”

CHEO asked that parents who use edibles educate their children about the dangers of ingesting foreign substances and to mark “off-limit sweets” with distinct labels “so they know to stay away.”

With files from The Canadian Press