Health & Science

Kids are accidentally ingesting cannabis edibles — here’s how to prevent it

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Reports show that young kids are accidentally consuming cannabis edibles, and in many cases they are winding up in the hospital. In 2022, poison centers across the U.S. received over 6,000 calls for kids under 12 who consumed cannabis edibles — almost seven times the number of calls they received in 2018.

Of the cases of child consumption of edible cannabis products reported from 2017 to 2021, more than half of the children were toddlers, aged 2 and 3. And notably, more than 90 percent of the kids got the edibles at home.

Cannabis-infused edibles have become widely available online and in stores, and many come in the form of treats like gummies, candy, chocolate, cookies, and chips. As products containing certain types of THC derived from legal hemp have become more widespread, health officials worry that many of the products appear too enticing to kids. Last year, the FDA and Federal Trade Commission sent cease-and-desist letters to six companies offering THC products that are designed to look like Doritos, Cheetos, Nerds, and other familiar junk food brands.

The health risks of cannabis edibles for children

While cannabis edibles may be perfectly legal for adults (depending on where you live), there are many reasons they should be kept out of the hands of children. Each piece of a THC edible contains an adult dose, so kids’ smaller bodies will have a much harder time processing the substance. A Colorado study showed that eating just two weed gummies can put a young child at risk of “severe and prolonged” toxic effects.

Dr. Blake Froberg, a pediatrician and director of the Indiana Poison Center, told WRTV, “The biggest thing that we see is kind of a change in their mental status. They get really sleepy. They may even get to a point where they’re unresponsive.”

Symptoms in kids who have consumed too much THC can include mild reactions like drowsiness, decreased balance and coordination, and vomiting, or more rare but severe reactions like dangerously low blood pressure, coma, respiratory depression, and seizures.

How to prevent kids from getting sick from edibles

Young kids won’t know the difference between THC products and regular candy or snacks, especially since so many of them resemble familiar sweets and treats. The key is to think of cannabis products like you would medicine in terms of safety. In other words: Hide your adult gummies!

Cannabis products are not required to be sold in child-proof packaging, and you never know what curious toddlers and kids will get into. So simply do NOT keep cannabis products in your bag, snack cabinet, bedside table, or around the house, whenever kids will be around. Instead, keep them locked up in a hard-to-reach location, just as is recommended for prescription meds.

“Never consume marijuana edibles in front of children, either for medical or recreational purposes,” urges the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Seeing the products could create temptation for kids.”

As a precaution, always keep the Poison Control number (1-800-222-1222) on your fridge and in your phone.

Talk to older kids about the risks of recreational marijuana and cannabis products, so that they understand the important health and mental health reasons why recreational cannabis is not recommended for developing brains. 

What to do if your child ate an edible

Whenever a child ingests something potentially toxic, including marijuana edibles, reach out to Poison Control for guidance — even if they don’t show any symptoms yet. Help is available 24/7 at or by phone at 1-800-222-1222.

Be aware of the signs and symptoms that can occur in kids after ingesting cannabis edibles, including:

  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness or difficulty walking
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion or paranoia
  • Agitation or panic
  • Difficulty breathing or apnea (not breathing for 10 seconds or more)
  • Hallucinations
  • Abnormally slow heart rate
  • Low blood pressure

The signs and symptoms of cannabis poisoning in children might not start right away, but once they start they can last for hours. Kids younger than 10 years old who are exposed to cannabis edibles are more likely to require hospital admission and respiratory support than older kids. No deaths have been reported.

Joanna Eng is a staff writer and digital content specialist at ParentsTogether. She lives with her wife and two kids in New York, where she loves to hike, try new foods, and check out way too many books from the library.