Poison Control Seeing Increase In Calls About Over-The-Counter Supplements

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For years now, Mr. Yuk has been the face of poison control, aimed at keeping kids away from dangerous medicines and products.

But there are a growing number of calls to poison control centers nationwide, because of something you probably have in your home and think is totally safe – over-the-counter supplements.

It’s a national pattern. There have been 275,000 calls between 2000 and 2012.

The Pittsburgh Poison Control Center also has been taking more calls.

“As that market and that industry has continued to grow, so have calls to the poison center regarding exposures,” said Dr. Michael Lynch, of Pittsburgh Poison Control.

These products claim weight loss, energy boosting, sleep-enhancing or other health-related effects.

“It includes a whole lot of different things, things you can buy over the counter, through nutrition stores, that a lot of people consider safe, aren’t well regulated, and are sold as dietary supplements,” Dr. Lynch said.

A study in the Journal of Medical Toxicology looked at Poison Control Center calls from 2005 to 2017. Calls about dietary supplements, herbals, and homeopathic remedies jumped 50 percent. And seven out of 10 calls were about kids younger than 6.

Plant-derived botanicals accounted for a third of the cases. Nearly five percent of the time, serious medical complications occurred.

Of the botanicals, Yohimbe, which is often used as an aphrodisiac, caused the problems, such as heart beat changes, kidney failure, seizures, and death.

“In anything that is being sold to intentionally be put into our bodies, I think there needs to be some degree of regulation, or understanding of exactly what is in those products,” said Dr. Lynch.

In that timeframe in Pittsburgh, there were more than 350 calls related to supplements. More than 200 of these calls were about children 5-years-old and younger.

The most common product, a hormonal supplement, the sleep aid – melatonin.

“In a child under age 6, there can be effects, especially sleepiness, and difficulty to arouse, which may even end up having to go to the hospital to be evaluated,” Dr. Lynch said.

More safety features on packaging, increased oversight, and common sense are some ways of dealing with the issue.

“They need to be stored, just like any other medication or pharmaceutical in your house. Or any other chemical, really. And that should be stored away from kids, up high, locked up, and understood that while the risk of real danger is relatively low, it does exist,” said Dr. Lynch.

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