How To Protect Kids From Accidental Cannabis Consumption

by | Feb 12, 2024 | Edibles, Uncategorized

child proof cannabis storage

When you search for cannabis edibles on Google or other search engines, the first thing you might see are not actually products. Instead, there are news items about hospital admission statistics involving children and accidental ingestion of cannabis products. The most common form involved in these cases is cannabis edibles.

Responsible use of cannabis includes making sure that all products are stored safely out of the reach of anyone who should not be using them. For both children and pets, cannabis can cause serious and potentially life-threatening incidents that can require emergency care.

Where you store your cannabis edibles, flower, tinctures, or capsules matters; in this article, we’ll share some important facts about accidental cannabis exposure for children and explain the signs to watch out for and what you should do if you suspect your child has consumed medical marijuana edibles.

How To Protect Kids From Accidental Cannabis Consumption

How Does Cannabis Affect Minors?

A recent study, “Pediatric Edible Cannabis Exposures and Acute Toxicity: 2017–2021,” looked at data for accidental cannabis ingestion by children under the age of six years. The researchers commented that cannabis poisoning incidents among young children were rapidly increasing.

The number of cannabis-related health emergencies caused by accidental consumption of cannabis may surprise you:

  • There were a total of 7043 exposures from 2017 to 2021. However, only 207 cases were reported.
  • In 2021, there were 3054 cases reported, which was an increase of 1375%.
  • Of all cases reported, 22.7% of minors were admitted to the hospital.

In terms of the medical outcomes and adverse effects of cannabis on children, parents need to know that it can become life-threatening if medical care is not received. One study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that from 2017-2019, there were over 4,000 calls to regional poison control centers about exposure incidents involving children aged nine and under.

Are Symptoms Of Cannabis Impairment Different for Children?

The effects that an adult experiences using medical cannabis edibles or other intake methods are different and less intense than the symptoms that children can experience. One of the reasons that cannabis products can have mild to moderate (but not severe) effects on adults has to do with tolerance levels.

Children who have not been exposed to cannabis have no THC tolerance, and the effects can be distressing and lead to an adverse event requiring emergency care. There are a number of potentially dangerous side effects children can experience after ingesting cannabis.

Effects on the Central Nervous System

Symptoms of dizziness, agitation, confusion, and altered perception are some of the signs of accidental cannabis ingestion. These effects can be very distressing for children as they do not understand what is happening to them. You may also notice slurred speech.

Respiratory Effects

Children who have consumed cannabis may experience respiratory problems. Some of the signs to look for are coughing or wheezing. Cannabis exposure can become life-threatening to children with pre-existing respiratory issues, such as asthma or cystic fibrosis.

While the most common source of accidental dosing of children centers around edible cannabis products, if one or more adults in a household are smoking marijuana, it should be outdoors and away from children. Secondhand cannabis smoke can also cause respiratory issues.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea can be caused by viral or bacterial infections but also by accidental cannabis consumption by minors.

Cardiovascular and Neurological Effects

Cannabis raises both heart rate and blood pressure temporarily. Children with cardiovascular problems are most at risk of adverse effects of marijuana edibles or baked goods. Ingestion of large quantities (or concentrated potencies) of cannabis by children can result in loss of consciousness and seizures.

Accidental consumption by children typically occurs with cannabis edibles because they look like gummy candies. Leaving cannabis edibles or any other type of THC product within reach of children presents a significant risk of accidental use, with severe symptoms and potentially life-threatening consequences.

medical cannabis edibles

How To Prevent Accidental Cannabis Consumption By Minors

Child-resistant containers are usually required by law for any edible product sold by a licensed dispensary. But child-resistant packaging does not mean it is “child-proof,” and that is an important difference to remember. Never leave out a container of cannabis products, trusting that the child-resistant packaging will be sufficient to prevent THC poisoning.

Keeping kids safe (and preventing deliberate access by older kids) means storing your cannabis products intelligently. One of the best and easiest ways to do this is to invest in a locked cabinet, box, or secure odor-proof bag.

Many of the safe storage alternatives are affordable and have a combination lock, which provides some added peace of mind. Even if a minor happens to find your storage container, opening it and accessing your medical cannabis edibles or other products would be nearly impossible.

Parents who live with children need to be aware that cannabis products can also be taken by teenagers. Older children are more likely to know about cannabis and may be eager to try it. Find a secure place that is unknown by other members of your household to store your edible cannabis or other medical marijuana products.

What to Do If You Suspect Your Child Has Consumed Cannabis

Observe your child’s symptoms and determine what product (and quantity) your child may have consumed. Don’t wait for the effects to wear off; for some children, exposure to cannabis may require emergency room care, particularly for small children who experience breathing difficulties as a result of unintentional exposures.

The second step is to call your local poison control center. Poison control can provide information and help you assess whether you should take your child to the emergency department right away. The active ingredient in cannabis is THC, and it can be a toxic drug for children.

If you are unable to get to an emergency room, consider using a telemedicine consultation with a primary care provider for advice and instructions. Provide the correct information to healthcare providers, such as the number or potential quantity the child has consumed and the potency of the medical cannabis product they have ingested.

Other Tips to Prevent THC Poisoning

Young children model what they see older adults and their parents doing. Never consume your edibles in front of a child. If your children are going to visit family members or friends, and there is one or more adults who use medical cannabis, please discuss safety concerns with them.

Many recent incidents of accidental THC poisoning happened when children accessed edibles at home and took them to school to share with friends. Make sure you educate your children about the medicinal purposes of using your edible marijuana and teach them to refuse “candy” from other children if you are not available to examine the product.

Remember that only low-THC products are provided for eligible children (with the assistance of a caregiver) for medicinal use. High-potency cannabis can not only cause a health emergency, but it can impair memory, cognitive development, and other long-term problems for children.

Carefully keep your medical cannabis products out of sight and out of mind to help keep kids safe.

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