Shaped like cartoon characters or baby animals, gummy multivitamins are one way to make sure a child gets vitamins and minerals. They taste good and fill the nutrition gaps in the diet. They sound like a win!
And they are, as long as they’re taken correctly. As you can imagine, this is one pill that a young child looks forward to in the morning. Often kids pick the color, flavor or shape for the day. Still, children can be indecisive. Even though a child may have wanted the cherry flavored red star when he had the opportunity, he may decide later that he really wants the grape flavored purple moon.
When a parent or caregiver’s back is turned, the child may go to the cabinet to look for the purple moon. Gummy vitamins are a substance that many parents and caregivers aren’t too worried about and with good reason. Most gummy vitamins are not a cause for concern, even if a child has an extra vitamin or two.
However, large quantities of gummy vitamins can cause medical issues for a child, specifically with vitamins that contain iron. The iron in the vitamins can cause iron poisoning, which is a serious concern, especially in a small child. Initially, excess iron causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Large amounts of iron can cause liver and other organ damage.
The best way to prevent a potential problem is to educate your child that there is a danger in taking more than one vitamin per day. Make sure your child knows that, although the vitamins taste good, they are not candy and should not be viewed as a “treat.” In addition, handle the vitamins the same way as any medication. Keep them either in a locked cabinet or up and away from children, keeping in mind that older children are very curious and can climb.
The Wisconsin Poison Center (WPC) received calls from over 350 parents of children ten years old and younger regarding vitamin overdoses in the past year. Fourteen of those children were hospitalized. It is one of the most common calls that the WPC receives from parents of young children.
If you suspect vitamin overdosing or any exposure, call the WPC immediately at 1-800-222-1222. They are open 24/7/365 for fast, free, confidential service.
What have you done to educate your child on the proper way to handle household medications?
Meg Lesnick is the External Relations Specialist for the Wisconsin Poison Center, a program of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin located in Milwaukee. It provides 24-hour, toll-free poison information for individuals in Wisconsin. For a poison emergency, call 1-800-222-1222.