Skyrocketing number of babies, toddlers dying from fentanyl

Vigil held for 1-year-old who died of fentanyl exposure at Bronx day care,” “Evansville baby found dead with fentanyl in system,” and “Mother charged with manslaughter after child died of fentanyl poisoning pleads guilty”–these are just a few news headlines over the past week involving fentanyl deaths of babies and toddlers.

A new report from The Kansas City Star reveals just how devastating the fentanyl epidemic is becoming on young children. An investigation by the newspaper found that over the past three years, dozens of young children in both of the states have lost their lives to the illicit drug. These victims, babies and toddlers aged 4 and under, have unwittingly encountered the synthetic opioid in their homes, hotel rooms, and even at city parks.

According to The Star, 10 children under 5 years old died from fentanyl poisoning in Missouri in 2021. By 2022, preliminary reports show that number had doubled to 20, and experts believe it will be even higher in 2023.

In Kansas, according to the State Child Death Review Board, there were no reported cases of children dying from fentanyl between 2017 and 2019. However, the year 2020 witnessed a tragic spike, with 11 children losing their lives, followed by nine more in 2021.

“Every single one of these babies and toddlers are very real people that had cute little smiles and curly hair, and their own little personalities and their own beauty inside of them,” Emily van Schenkhof, executive director of the Children’s Trust Fund of Missouri, told The Star. “They’re real. “And I think sometimes you look at data and you (only) look at how many deaths there were. (But) those are very real children that died.”

Across America, authorities are investigating a skyrocketing number of young children 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.

Just last month, Emily’s Hope reported on a 1-year-old boy who died in a New York City day care after authorities say he was exposed to fentanyl. Three other children, from 8 months to 2 years old, became seriously ill and were revived with naloxone. 

One naloxone product, Narcan, is now for sale without a prescription. You can buy the opioid overdose reversal drug at some pharmacies, big box stores and online.

As drug overdoses claim the lives of more Americans under the age of 50 than any other cause, authorities strongly advocate for every household to have Narcan readily available.

“It’s grabbing hold of our children now,” Frank Tennant, chief of Missouri’s State Technical Assistance Team, told The Star. “Fentanyl scares me, and not a lot scares me. It’s straight from hell as far as I’m concerned.”