By Shomari Jackson
Drug-Free Communities Project Coordinator
Southwest Behavioral & Health Services

There is no doubt that Halloween is right around the corner. Grocery store shelves are bursting with costumes and candy. While this is a time of the year where families can come together and enjoy the fall season, it is also important for parents to remember the importance of safeguarding medications that may be easily accessible to their kids.

Many medicines and candy can be difficult if not impossible to tell apart.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), each year approximately 3 million people swallow or have contact with a poisonous substance — many under the age of 5. A young child may be poisoned by ingesting prescription or over-the-counter medications. Making it particularly enticing to young children is the fact that many medicines have a look-alike candy counterpart.

Some of the most common household medicines that resemble candy include:
• Motrin tablets look like orange M&M’s
• Adderall XR resembles Tic-Tacs
• Aspirin look like Certs
• Dayquil capsules look like Mike and Ike’s
• Ex-Lax looks like a Hershey’s candy bar
• Vitamins look like Gummy Bears

To help prevent this, parents should keep all medicines, prescription and over-the-counter, in a safe place not accessible to their children. This is also an opportunity for parents to talk to their children about the dangers of taking medicines or other substance that did not come from their parents.
An additional concern is the availability of marijuana edibles. These products look and taste like regular food a child might consume: cookies, brownies, toaster pastries, and candies.

Older kids who wish to experiment with getting high might choose these products because they are harder to detect. Edibles have no tell-tale smoke or odor.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and AAP share these tips for keeping medication away from children.
• Keep medications stored in areas up high and out of your children’s reach, or in a locked medicine cabinet
• Don’t leave medications out on the counter after you are finished taking them
• Keep your medications in their original containers, with labels intact
• Remember to securely close the childproof safety cap each time you use any medication
• Don’t leave your next dose out on the table or counter as a reminder to take it later
• Properly dispose of any unused or expired medications
• Never refer to any medications as “candy” or a treat

Parents need to be aware of the safety issues with any prescription or over-the-counter medications and know what to do in an emergency situation if you suspect that a child has ingested something poisonous. Stay calm and try and determine what the child has ingested. If your child is awake and alert, immediately call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. But if they are unresponsive, have collapsed or not breathing call 911 immediately. And if the child has swallowed something, take it away from them but do not induce vomiting.

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