Poison center calls for fentanyl exposure in young kids increase 53-fold

Poison centers in the U.S. have seen a dramatic increase in calls for kids under six years old exposed to illicit fentanyl. Calls jumped from ten in 2016 to 539 in 2023, according to a news release from America’s Poison Centers.

“The rise of cases for young children exposed to fentanyl highlights the need for increased public awareness of the fentanyl epidemic,” said Dr. Kaitlyn Brown, Clinical Managing Director for America’s Poison Centers.

Emily’s Hope has reported on several other studies revealing the skyrocketing number of babies and toddlers dying from fentanyl. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that 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.

“Equipping communities with knowledge about the dangers of fentanyl exposures in young children, how to prevent accidental exposure, and what to do when a child has been exposed is key to keeping young children safe,” said Brown.

Research by the Oregon Poison Center found that pediatric fentanyl exposures increased in relation to the number of pills seized. Researchers also determined that more than 80% of fentanyl exposures in kids occurred in the child’s home.

“To prevent opioid poisoning parents of young children should ensure all medicine, drugs and other potentially poisonous substances are kept up high and out of reach. Simple measures like using a cabinet lock or medicine lock box can have a big impact,” a press release from America’s Poison Center reads.

Signs that someone is experiencing an opioid overdose include slow, shallow breathing, small, constricted “pinpoint” pupils, and vomiting or foaming at the mouth. The person may also have pale, bluish skin and be sleepy or unconscious. 

Naloxone intended for adults can be safely used on a child who is not breathing due to an opioid overdose.