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Is that chocolate or ex-lax?


Some medications are so hard to distinguish from candy that not even adults can tell the difference. Children may fare even worse, according to a student-led study.

Have you heard stories about children mistaking the ex-lax in their parent’s medicine cabinet for chocolate and then suffering the consequences for days? It seems pharmaceutical companies, in their quest for market share, will do just about anything to make their concoctions palatable.

This can pose much more serious problems than the chocolate ex-lax did for the hapless kid who spent many hours on the toilet paying for the crime of sneaking some chocolate. Indeed, the responsibility to keep our children safe from harm—and accidental pharmaceutical poisoning—rests with us. But even the most careful parents can be caught off guard when the pills look just like candy.

And, as two elementary school children, now in seventh grade, proved in an experiment, adults may be just as bad at discerning medicine from candy as their kids. Their research findings were presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in Boston on October 17.

The two girls, who are now 12 years old, obtained a medicine cabinet from The Drug and Poison Information Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center with a mixture of 20 candies and medicines. They randomly selected 30 teachers and 30 kindergarten students and asked them to identify the candies. They took into consideration that many of the kindergarten students could not read.

The kindergarten students identified candy from medicine correctly in 71 percent of cases, whereas the teachers rated only slightly better at 78 percent. The students who couldn’t read did much worse at identifying candy from medicine.

The most common mistakes included Tums or Mylanta (antacids) mistaken for Sweet Tarts by slightly more than half of volunteers, Sine-Off (a sinus/cold medicine) for Reese’s Pieces by half of the participants, and Coricidin (a cold medicine) for M&Ms by just more than 40 percent.

The student researchers also surveyed the volunteers about how medications are stored in their homes. Their results indicated that more than 75 percent of teachers and students did not have medications locked and out of reach at home.

People who use chocolate-flavoured ex-lax, beware—you may be just as likely to make a mistake as your sneaky kids.



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