Can You See a Difference Between Medication and Candy?

It started with a couple of kids doing a science fair project. They put together a display of medications and candies and polled two groups of people. One set were kindergarteners, and as you can imagine, they didn’t guess right all that often. The other set were teachers…and they didn’t fare much better. The girls got to present their study to the American Board of Pediatricians.

This presents us with a big problem. Most parents know that kids will put just about anything in their mouths. They may also see the sometimes bright colors of a medication and assume it’s candy. A lot of kids end up in the ER that way.

There is slightly more to it than that. It’s not uncommon for people who have to take medication in the middle of the night to drop some and not remember to get it in the morning. I also helped clean out behind and under an elderly relative’s nightstand and found a *lot* of pills and capsules under it. Most I recognized, but some I did not. On top of that, one of them looked exactly like a licorice jelly bean.

A parent of young children is much more likely to keep their medications out of a child’s reach, but what about grandma and grandpa? Even though I’m not over fifty yet, I still need a reminder to take some of them, and if they’re locked up, I may forget. Therefore, all of my medications are out and easily assessable.

There are things we can do to protect our children from the risk of thinking drugs are candy. Naturally, the first thing is to make sure they aren’t within reach. If you’re planning on taking your kids to an older relatives home, it might be a good idea to gently remind them to put medicines out of reach.

We can also be aware that medications do look like candy in many ways. It’s hard to tell the difference between a “bottle cap” and tums. The same goes for most colors of Skittles. It might be wiser to keep the chocolate and quietly trade away those candies that most closely resemble medications.

If you have doubts about whether what you or your child finds on the floor, ask your pharmacist. Part of their training is instant recognition of most drugs. If you don’t have time for it, when in doubt, throw it out. A pouting child is much preferred to the possible alternatives.

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