Medicine or candy? A deadly mistake in the age of coronavirus

Health officials say medicine mix-ups are increasingly becoming a pediatric emergency room issue

With families living in tight quarantine quarters for months now, medicine mix-ups are increasingly becoming a pediatric emergency room issue.
With families living in tight quarantine quarters for months now, medicine mix-ups are increasingly becoming a pediatric emergency room issue.

Medicine or candy? Injury prevention specialists want you to always ask that question when storing and carrying the drugs and vitamins you take as part of your medical regimen.

With families living in tight quarantine quarters for months now, medicine mix-ups are increasingly becoming a pediatric emergency room issue.

The South Texas Poison Help Center’s latest data shows accidental poisoning with over the counter and prescription medications on the rise during the Covid-19 pandemic. As an example, calls to the center for questions about swallowing melatonin is up 47% this year as compared to last. It’s often mistaken for candy since many versions are gummy form.

According to Jennifer Northway, director of injury prevention at University Health System, the mistakes can be sickening, or even deadly. She is part of a group of organizations and agencies that spread awareness of the problem called “Safe Kids.”

RELATED: Calls to South Texas Poison Control Center spike amid coronavirus pandemic

There are lots of examples. Some antihistamines, for example, look just like red hot candies. Ex-Lax laxatives look just like a Hershey’s chocolate bar. Nicorette gum is in a blister pack almost exactly the same size and shape as a pack of Trident gum.

Northway shows how similar “Dots” candy looks identical to her daily multivitamin. If she carries a small Ziplock of them in her purse, it could easily be trouble.

“Those gummies, they sure look fine, but if a child gets into the little baggie, that can be a very dangerous situation,” said Northway.

The coronavirus environment has increased the chances that children will have more time inside the home, where oftentimes multi-generations live together. Securing medicines and vitamins has never been more important.

“We leave them out on the counter, we place them in our purse, we place them in a diaper bag to make them more accessible, but that could also create a dangerous situation,” said Northway.

If you need support to secure your medications, or if you have questions about accidental poisonings, call the South Texas Poison Help Center Hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

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About the Author:

Ursula Pari has been a staple of television news in Texas at KSAT 12 News for more than 22 years and a veteran of broadcast journalism for more than 30 years.