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Kids And Pot: How One Emergency Room Is Responding

dankdepot / Flickr

dankdepot / Flickr

With marijuana now available for recreational purchase, physicians are hoping parents will be careful about keeping these products from kids.

Emergency physician and medical toxicologist Dan Colby with UC Davis said doctors have seen an increase over the last two years in pediatric patients who’ve accidentally ingested marijuana. Usually these children show up sleepy, disoriented and vomiting. It can take physicians a while to figure out what’s wrong.

“Often times we’re doing lots of tests trying to figure it out,” he said. “If only we knew, if only a parent or someone said, ‘oh, this is just marijuana.’”

Weed isn’t usually life-threatening to kids, but the quicker doctors can diagnose it, the sooner they can start treatment, which Colby said typically involves fluids and medical supervision.

UC Davis emergency room staff have started asking parents more pointed questions about whether a child has had access to the drug, and soon they’ll add a urine test to their screening protocols when they suspect marijuana ingestion.

A 2016 Colorado study found the number of children admitted to the hospital for ingesting marijuana doubled and calls to poison control increased five-fold after the state legalized recreational use in 2012.

Colby, who also works for California Poison Control System, says there wasn’t a dramatic uptick in calls between late 2017 and January 2018

But now that the drug is available recreationally at dispensaries, parents should be aware of the hazard it poses to kids. Though California law prohibits edibles that could be appealing to children, there are still plenty of weed-laced brownies and gummy bears around.

“All these things need to be kept in a safe place high up, in a lock box would be best - I would treat it like any dangerous medication,” Colby said. “Children, they’re amazing and they can get into anything, so you really need to be thoughtful in your home in terms of keep your child safe from these products.”

If a child ingests marijuana, call the California Poison Control System at 1-800-222-1222 to find out whether to seek medical help.

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