Are one or two dangerous? Opioid exposure in toddlers


Are one or two dangerous? Opioid exposure in toddlers


Sachdeva DK; Stadnyk JM


The Journal Of Emergency Medicine




Child; Humans; Analgesics; Preschool; infant; Dose-Response Relationship; Drug; Codeine/poisoning; Emergency Medicine/methods; Fentanyl/poisoning; Methadone/poisoning; Opioid/poisoning; Overdose; Pediatrics/methods; Poisoning/diagnosis/physiopathology/therapy; Tramadol/poisoning


Ingestions of opioid analgesics by children may lead to significant toxicity as a result of depression of the respiratory and central nervous systems. A review of the medical literature was performed to determine whether low doses of opioids are dangerous in the pediatric population under 6 years old. Methadone was found to be the most toxic of the opioids; doses as low as a single tablet can lead to death. All children who have ingested any amount of methadone need to be observed in an Emergency Department (ED) for at least 6 h and considered for hospital admission. Most other opioids are better tolerated in ingestions as small as one or two tablets. Based on the limited data available for these opioids, we conclude that equianalgesic doses of 5 mg/kg of codeine or greater require 4 to 6 h of observation in the ED. Data for propoxyphene and all extended-release preparations are limited; their prolonged half-lives would suggest the need for longer observation periods. All opioid ingestions leading to respiratory depression or significant central nervous system depression require admission to an intensive care unit.


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Sachdeva DK; Stadnyk JM, “Are one or two dangerous? Opioid exposure in toddlers,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed January 31, 2023,

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