RAYMOND, Miss (WJTV) – Over-the-counter medications and supplements seem safer than prescription drugs, but a dramatic rise in pediatric melatonin overdoses serves as a warning that these products can be dangerous and must be stored safely.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found a 530% increase in melatonin overdose in children from 2012 to 2020. Most of these ingestions were unintentional and occurred among children 5 or younger in their homes.

“Overdoses in children have been on the rise,” said Lori Staton, a human development and family science specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “People can easily get supplements over the counter, and many come in gummy form. To a child, that looks and tastes like candy.”

Proper storage is important to help avoid accidental ingestion, said David Buys, Extension health specialist.

“We recommend for the safety of those taking medicines and others who may be in the home, such as young children, guests or pets, people should keep their medicines in their original containers and up, out of sight and out of reach,” he said.

Buys said keeping these items in a medicine cabinet or another out-of-reach area can work in some households. People with young children may need to consider using child safety locks on cabinets. For those with older children or guests coming into the home, it may be a good idea to use a lock or lock box.

While people may be tempted to use an over-the-counter sleep aid, such as melatonin, Staton said it is best to avoid these substances. Instead, she recommends concentrating on good sleep hygiene.

“Getting enough quality sleep on a regular basis is important for our physical, cognitive, social and behavioral health,” she said. “Start with creating a bedtime routine and keeping a regular sleep/wake schedule, even on the weekends.”

It also helps to follow sleep hygiene rules, such as keeping the bedroom dark, cool and quiet.