Alarming increase in children exposed to opioids in Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Poison Control System has issued an alarming report, revealing a concerning surge in opioid exposure among children, particularly fentanyl, across the state. According to the report, since the year 2022, 66 children under the age of three have been reported to have been exposed to opioids. However, experts believe that this figure may only scratch the surface, as there could be more unreported cases.

“These young children, some barely learning to cruise or putting their hands in their mouths, were rushed to Minnesota hospitals after opioid exposure. We have documented a range of symptoms and severity of illness, all requiring medical attention,” Dr. Travis Olives, the associate medical director for the Minnesota Poison Control System, said.

The majority of exposures occur when children come into contact with fentanyl within their homes. Dr. Olives stressed that naloxone and rescue breathing can be life-saving and life-changing in such emergencies.

“It is crucial to keep opioids and other harmful substances away from children, and to ensure that children are kept away from areas and surfaces where these substances are being used,” Dr. Olives emphasized. “Ideally, individuals struggling with addiction should seek help and refrain from having or using these substances in locations accessible to little ones.”

Symptoms of opioid exposure in children include sleepiness or decreased alertness, unresponsiveness, slow, shallow, or absent breathing, vomiting, and pale or bluish skin color, indicating inadequate breathing. Dr. Olives emphasized that children should always be supervised by a responsible and sober adult to handle emergencies effectively.

“If you suspect that a child has been exposed to fentanyl or any other opioids and observe any of these symptoms, it is crucial to call 911 and seek immediate medical attention,” urged Dr. Olives. This report follows a national study published in JAMA Pediatrics that found fentanyl was involved in 94% of the deadly pediatric opioid poisonings recorded in 2021, compared to 5% in 1999. More than 5,000 kids have died from overdoses involving fentanyl over the past two decades.