Perspectives

Should Melatonin Be Given to Children?

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There was a significant increase in the use of melatonin among children, from 0.1% in 2007 to 0.7% in 2012, according to a National Health Statistics Report (No. 78) released on February 10, 2015. In 2012, melatonin was the second most common nonvitamin, nonmineral dietary supplement used in children (fish oil was No. 1 at 1.1%).

But sleep researchers at the University of Adelaide warn against giving melatonin to children. David Kennaway, head of the Circadian Physiology Laboratory at the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute, says, “The word ‘safe’ is used very freely and loosely with this drug, but there have been no rigorous, long-term safety studies of the use of melatonin to treat sleep disorders in children and adolescents. There is also the potential for melatonin to interact with other drugs commonly prescribed for children, but it’s difficult to know without clinical trials assessing its safety.”

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