Pediatric Intoxication: Treatment and Prevention



Dr. Lee here with another topic that’s really important from a medical standpoint- the rising incidence of pediatric intoxications involving marijuana products! While we at Green Mind are (obviously) proponents of marijuana, that doesn’t mean ignoring the inconvenient evidence. Anytime there’s a marijuana-related issue, we tackle it head-on, review the evidence and help people continue to use marijuana in a safe way.

The evidence we do have shows that when a state passes marijuana legalization for medical purposes, emergency departments see a steady rise in the number of pediatric patients that have ingested marijuana accidentally (1).

There’s many reasons for this! First and foremost, most marijuana edibles look and taste like child-friendly foods. We also know that traditionally health care providers have not been very good about counseling patients on marijuana-related topics, and that often patients will obtain marijuana certification from someone different from their PCP (**raises hand**).

I myself have worked in Michigan, Oklahoma and Illinois ERs, and have seen plenty of babies in various stages of intoxication. More often than not, I get babies that are simply suspected of consuming an edible.

The cornerstone of treatment is observation- that’s not a funny medical term, we literally keep the patient in a dark room and check in on them often. If you’re saying to yourself “I could do that at home,” you’re totally right! With guidance from the Centers of Poison Control via phone call, >70% of parents are able to manage marijuana intoxications from home without going to an ER.

While most ingestions are harmless, we do know that marijuana ingestions can be fatal in children! The younger a child is (and the lighter), the more likely they are to have severe adverse effects, like needing help breathing or losing consciousness. Patients under 5 are felt to be especially susceptible to severe side effects. The data we have on states like Washington and Colorado show that most ingestions occur in patients with an average age of 2 (2,3).

Fortunately, we do have fairly clear guidance on what to do in case of an intoxication (4). Centers for Poison Control have made guidelines for the management of pediatric intoxications that we have summarized in a handout for you! For all you parents out there- the number one thing in case of an ingestion is to get in touch with poison control! Having the child’s weight, and the suspected dose consumed, can also be helpful.

However, prevention is more important than treatment! We recommend keeping marijuana edibles AWAY from the kitchen and in a locked separate box. With older children, communication is key- we recommend parents set strict boundaries and consequences with teenagers.

Let us know if you have any questions! Keep those babies safe!

Dr. Lee



  1. Wang GS, Hoyte C, Roosevelt G, Heard K. The Continued Impact of Marijuana Legalization on Unintentional Pediatric Exposures in Colorado. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2019;58(1):114-116. doi:10.1177/0009922818805206

  2. Levene RJ, Pollak-Christian E, Wolfram S. A 21st Century Problem: Cannabis Toxicity in a 13-Month-Old Child. J Emerg Med. 2019;56(1):94-96. doi:10.1016/j.jemermed.2018.09.040

  3. Thomas AA, Von Derau K, Bradford MC, Moser E, Garrard A, Mazor S. Unintentional Pediatric Marijuana Exposures Prior to and After Legalization and Commercial Availability of Recreational Marijuana in Washington State. J Emerg Med. 2019;56(4):398-404. doi:10.1016/j.jemermed.2019.01.004

  4. Dowd MD. Acute Marijuana Intoxication in Children. Pediatr Ann. 2018;47(12):e474-e476. doi:10.3928/19382359-20181119-02