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Melatonin for Kids Has Some Medical Professionals Concerned

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Many parents extol the virtues of melatonin for kids. Melatonin, a synthetic form of the hormone that signals the brain it’s time for sleep, is a godsend for parents who fight nightly bedtime battles with their children. My kids have a hard time turning off their brains at night, and I’ve considered giving them melatonin to help them fall asleep easier. But now, experts are cautioning parents about the potential risks the hormone has on developing children.

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One of the issues with Melatonin is that its long-term effects on children haven’t been thoroughly studied. “I think we just don’t know what the potential long-term effects are, particularly when you’re talking about young children,” said Dr. Judith Owens, director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital, told the New York Times. “Parents really need to understand that there are potential risks.”

The Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health points out that melatonin isn’t registered for use in children anywhere in the world, and it hasn’t undergone the formal safety testing expected for a new drug, especially long-term safety in children. In studies performed on animals, researchers noted “profound effects” on the reproductive, cardiovascular, immune and metabolic systems.

Melatonin can also interact with other prescription medications, so it’s extremely important that you let your child’s doctor know that they use the hormone. “I rarely see a family come in with a child with insomnia who hasn’t tried melatonin,” Dr. Owens said. “I would say at least 75 percent of the time when they come in to see us, they’re either on melatonin or they’ve tried it in the past.”

Because Melatonin is not a drug, it’s not regulated by the FDA. Dr. Owens recommends parents only use it under a doctor’s supervision. She also suggests purchasing “pharmaceutical grade” from a reputable source, since dosing is often not precise with many over-the-counter brands.

Let us know your experiences with melatonin for children in the comments!

(Image: iStock / g-stockstudio)

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