Halloween is a busy time for the New Jersey Poison Control Center.

With people preoccupied preparing for school parades, house parties and trick-or-treating, they may not be paying attention to everything happening around them.
But Bruce Ruck, managing director at the NJ Poison Information and Education System at Rutgers University NJ Medical School, said it is important to remember that potential poisons hide in plain sight.

What is the main concern?

One of the poison center’s main concerns at Halloween and all year around focuses on marijuana edibles.

Ruck said the number of cases that the poison center has received so far this year in New Jersey is up dramatically over past years.

“Between January and September this year, we have been called on at least 113 children under the age of 5 that have gotten into a parent’s, a relative’s, a friend’s, or somebody’s edible marijuana. The majority have to be sent into emergency rooms,” Ruck said.

That number is now even higher now that it’s the end of October. He said more calls regarding young children getting into edibles have been received this month, so the total number of calls is around the 120 mark.

(Erin Vogt, Townsquare Media)
(Erin Vogt, Townsquare Media)

What are some case examples the NJ Poison Control Center has seen?

Ruck said a 2-year-old child accidentally ate some of his dad’s marijuana edibles without anyone noticing. The dad only realized something was wrong when the child became extremely tired and unsteady while walking. These are typical symptoms. The toddler was admitted to an emergency room and luckily got better after spending 24 hours in the hospital receiving treatment.

Another case involved a babysitter who contacted the NJ Poison Control Center after realizing the marijuana edibles from her purse had gone missing. On the way to the emergency room, the toddler under the babysitter’s care developed seizures. That child was also treated.

Seizures and respiratory issues are common symptoms among young children who have ingested edibles, Ruck said.

What if you have marijuana edibles at home?

He said all marijuana, just like all medicines must be locked up, Ruck said. The rule of thumb used to be to keep medicines high up on shelves, out of reach. But he said kids, as young as two and three years old are climbing up into cabinets looking for candy, especially this time of year.

Edibles look like candy and to a young child, this is very appealing.

Ruck said while it is possible, it is highly unlikely someone would intentionally give out marijuana edibles to children on Halloween. He is more concerned about marijuana edibles being in the home where a child is present. The edibles could get mixed up with candy or a child thinks what they see is candy, but it is really edible marijuana.


What are some other Halloween mishaps?

Halloween-related mishaps go beyond edible marijuana. Ruck said if you’re using cosmetics or paint on a child’s face and/or body, make sure it’s an approved product.
“We want to make sure they’re not using products that may come from other countries that may contain lead or other harmful chemicals,” Ruck said.

Avoid homemade treats when trick-or-treating, Ruck said. This is to make sure kids are not allergic to anything.

Teach kids that medicine is not candy. “When I was kid, it was common. Take this, it’s like candy. Well, medicine is not candy. Children will wind up taking a lot more than they should if they think it’s like candy,” Ruck said.

Be careful with dry ice. For Halloween, many people like to use dry ice in Halloween displays. Dry ice can be very dangerous if it’s used in an enclosed space. Ruck said to use gloves to handle dry ice. Never handle it with bare hands. Dry ice can cause severe burns, erosion, and frostbite if it touches the skin.

The Cauldron via Facebook
The Cauldron via Facebook

What if you’re having a Halloween party?

Make sure to clean up as soon as the party is over. Ruck said never to leave half-drunk cups with alcohol in them. Kids may think it’s juice and drink it.

The amount of alcohol in beer and wine affects children and pets differently than adults. Even swallowing a small amount of alcohol can cause serious health effects or even death.

Keep chocolate out of reach, especially from pets. Chocolate, cocoa, candy, and anything sugarless can be poisonous to pets. Artificial sweeteners like xylitol can cause severe illness if pets eat products containing this ingredient.

What should you do if you or a child comes in contact with something dangerous?

Ruck said to contact NJ Poison Control Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Medical specialists are available to provide information and answer any questions.

NJIf someone is not breathing, is hard to wake up, is bleeding, or is having a seizure, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at jennifer.ursillo@townsquaremedia.com

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