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Poison or candy? Kids might mistake toxic items for look-alike treats

National Poison Prevention Week is March 17-23.


Linda Geist
University of Missouri Extension
Phone: 573-882-9185

Photo available for this release:

"Mistaken Identity" poster for National Poison Prevention Week

Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Story source:

Wyatt Miller, 816-776-6961

RICHMOND, Mo. – Parents often trick sick children into taking their medicine by disguising it as candy.

But that innocent deception by well-meaning parents can lead to children being poisoned by items that look like candy. During National Poison Prevention Week, March 17-23, University of Missouri Extension specialists across the state are providing information to improve household safety by showing look-alike poisons that can be mistaken for treats.

Wyatt Miller, an extension agronomy specialist who teaches private pesticide applicator training, is instructing Lafayette County children with an interactive display. Shown side by side, Sudafed tablets look a lot like Red Hots candies, Tic Tacs and red M&Ms. Clorets gum and nicotine gum are hard to distinguish, as are apple juice and Pine-Sol. Young children might find it hard to see the difference between a blue energy drink and Windex. And, of course, chocolate-flavored Ex-Lax laxative looks like chocolate candy.

To avoid poisoning, Miller recommends the following:

Store all medicines, cleaners and pesticides in their original containers out of the sight and reach of children.

Install safety latches on child-accessible cabinets containing harmful products.

Discard unused medicine. Check the label each time you administer medicine to a child to assure proper dosage.

Maintain working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Change batteries when you change clocks for daylight saving time as an easy-to-remember guide.

Ask for childproof caps on medicine containers at the pharmacy. Even if you do not have children in the home, this protects visiting children.

Secure remote controls, musical children’s books and greeting cards, as the small button batteries in them can cause injury if swallowed.

Store liquor and other alcoholic drinks out of the reach of children. As little as 3 ounces of hard liquor can kill a child weighing 25 pounds or less.

If your child becomes unconscious, isn’t breathing or is having convulsions due to poison, call 911 or the national Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 to be connected to the local poison control center. Until emergency services personnel arrive, follow these guidelines:

Swallowed poison. Have the child spit out as much as possible. Do not make the child vomit unless the label on the poison or the local poison control center suggests doing so. Do not use syrup of ipecac to induce vomiting. While used in years past, syrup of ipecac is no longer available for sale without a prescription, and medical experts rarely recommend its use today.

• Skin poison. Remove the child’s clothes and rinse the skin with water for 15 minutes.

• Eye poison. Flush the child’s eye by holding the eyelid open and pouring room-temperature water into the inner corner for 15 minutes.

• Poisonous fumes. Take the child outside or into the fresh air immediately. If the child stops breathing, administer CPR at once.

With the Easter holidays approaching, parents should beware of surroundings in relatives’ homes where usual safeguards are not in place. Medicine in Grandma’s purse, Aunt Sue’s refrigerator magnets or Uncle Jerry’s prized sunroom plant can pose poisoning or choking hazards to little ones.

Remember that the best treatment for poisoning is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

About Poison Prevention Week

The U.S. Congress established National Poison Prevention Week on September 16, 1961. Shortly thereafter, the Poison Prevention Week Council was organized to coordinate this annual event and promote poison prevention.

For more information and resources: