An article in The New England Journal of Medicine highlights the threat of illicit fentanyl to American children. Over the past 11 years, cases of illicit fentanyl poisonings in children under the age of six have surged by over 10,000 percent, totaling 1,466 recorded cases. In 2013, only five cases were reported to the U.S. poison control centers, whereas last year saw an alarming spike to 539 cases.

While the overall case numbers are low in this age group compared to the number of fentanyl poisonings in teens and adults, this surge is disturbing, and the impact is substantial. Many of the children experienced severe effects including central nervous system depression (63.2 percent), respiratory depression or arrest (49.6 percent), and received the overdose reversal medication naloxone (62.5 percent). Heartbreakingly, 142 children needed CPR and 51 children died.

While the response to the overdose crisis is understandably focused on adults, given that overdose ranks among the leading causes of death, it’s crucial to address the risks to young children. Analysis of these cases revealed that 82 percent of these children were exposed to fentanyl at home and the vast majority (84.4 percent) were toddlers aged two years or younger. Given the inherent curiosity of toddlers to explore and ingest objects, it’s imperative parents and caregivers comprehend the deadly nature of drugs today.

A tragic story underscores the urgency of this issue, involving the loss of an 8-year-old boy. While details are still unfolding, reports suggest he was brought to emergency services under the assumption of an allergic reaction to strawberries. He was discharged but later discovered unresponsive. Subsequent investigations revealed he died from fentanyl, not strawberries, leading to charges against his stepfather.

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