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The Next Stage – Cannabis and young children. How to keep them safe.

Cannabis (marijuana, pot, weed) use for non-medical purposes is now legal in Ontario for those 19 years of age and older. By October 2019, cannabis edibles will also be available to purchase.

Research has shown that the use of cannabis by individuals under 25 years of age while their brain is still developing can put them at increased risk of mental health concerns, poor school performance and problematic substance use later in life. [i]

What about young children?

Healthcare Providers across Canada have voiced concerns about an increase in Emergency Room visits due to accidental poisoning of children who have ingested cannabis products. It is predicted this rate will increase with the legalization of cannabis edibles.[ii]

Children’s small body size and different metabolism means they are at higher risk for poisoning.   A cannabis product manufactured for adults can cause life-threatening symptoms in children such as respiratory distress, coma, seizures, disorientation and other symptoms of intoxication.[iii]

Cannabis edibles such as cookies, squares (brownies), snack mixes, ice cream, beverages and candy are much more dangerous for children because:

    • They can be packaged to look like regular food or drinks, especially treats that may be more attractive to kids.
    • They often have a stronger and longer effect which can put children at a greater risk due to their smaller size and weight.[iv]

 

How can we prevent accidental poisonings?

Just like other dangerous items such as poisons and prescriptions:

  • Lock them up! Put them up!

Young children can be fantastic climbers. Storing cannabis products in a high cupboard is not enough. Use a locked box, such as a fishing tackle or tool box and put that box up high!

  • Out of sight, out of mind

Make sure your children do not know where you store your locked-up items. Curious children love a tempting challenge.

  • Do not rely on “child-proof” containers!

There is no such thing as a “child-proof” container. Child-resistant containers are only designed to slow down a child.

  • Talk with babysitters, caregivers, playdate parents

Make sure that wherever your child is cared for, your concerns about safety are respected.

  • Have a plan for emergencies

If you think your child ate any form of cannabis, even if they have no symptoms, get medical help right away! Call 911 immediately.[v]

For more information:
https://www.healthunit.com/cannabis https://www.canada.ca/en/services/health/campaigns/cannabis.html

i Canadian Pediatric Society. (2016). Marijuana: What parents need to know. Retrieved from https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/marijuana-what-parents-need-to-know
ii CBC News. (2018). With legal marijuana, children’s hospital braces for accidental poisonings. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/cannabis-edibles-children-doctors-halifax-1.4876268
iii Health Nexus. (2019) Risks of Cannabis on Fertility, Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Parenting. Retrieved from https://resources.beststart.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/A30-E.pdf
iv American Academy of Pediatrics. (2017). Edible Marijuana Dangers: How Parents Can Prevent Pot Poisoning. Retrieved from
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/substance-abuse/Pages/Edible-Marijuana-Dangers.aspx
v Ontario Poison Centre. (2019). Poison prevention. Retrieved from
http://www.ontariopoisoncentre.ca/for-families/poison-prevention/poison-prevention.aspx

 

Heather Bywaters RN PHN
Middlesex-London Health Unit
For the Middlesex-London Community Early Years Partnership

 

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