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My dear, medicine is not a candy


Medicines are always being misunderstood by children as candies. The attractive shapes and colours of the medicines as well as childrens’ own curiosities may drive them to accidently consume the medicines. As a consequence, children might experince poisoining due to medicines consumption.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), poisoning cases had caused more than 45000 deaths among children and teenagers aged 20 years old and below in year 2004. Most poisoning cases were caused by household items such as medicines, pesticides, and cleaning agents.

Medicines Poisoning In Children

Some medicines are intended only for adults, which cannot be taken by children.. Below are a few examples of medicines that can have detrimental effect in children if consumed without supervision of a doctor:

  1. Aspirin / Acetylsalicylic acid
    1. This medicine should not be taken by children aged below 16 years old because it may cause Reye’s Syndrome, which is a disease that causes swelling of liver and brain of the children.
  2. Tetracycline
    1. This can cause discolouration of teeth and it can affect children’s growth if taken by children aged 12 years old and below.
  3. Antidiarrheal medicines such as kaolin, loperamide or diphenoxylate
    1. These medicines can cause constipation or intestinal blockage if taken by children younger than 6 years old.
  4. Cough and cold medicine such as chlorpheniramine or pseudoephedrine
    1. These medicines should not be taken by children below two years old and may only be taken by children aged 2 to 6 years old with doctor’s supervision.
    2. Unsupervised, it may cause respiratory failure and can be fatal.
  5. Camphor
    1. This medicine can cause convulsion in children below 2 years old.

    Children’s Understanding On Medicine According To Their Age Group

    Good and safe management of medicines is important to prevent medicine poisoning from occuring. Besides that, children education on medicine is crucial and should be started early at home Children of different age group have different understanding on medicine. Therefore, parents play an important role in educating their children about safe use medicine.

    Listed below are a few important points that should be taught to your children about medicines :

    Age Group
    Important Points To Be Taught
    Actions That Should Be Taken By Children
    1 – 3
    Years Old
    1. Medicine is not candy
    2. Do not eat medicine as you wish
    1. Do not put that medicine in your mouth
    2. Give the medicine to mommy or daddy
    4 – 6
    Years Old
    1. Only take medicine in presence of your parents or guardian
    1. Ask for daddy’s or mommy’s permission before putting anything in your mouth
    7 – 9
    Years Old
    1. Only take medicine that has your name written on its label
    1. Make sure the medicine is yours, do not take other’s medicines
    10 – 12 Years Old
    1. All information of medicines are written on the medicine label
    1. Always read the medicine label before taking your medicine

    Tips On Preventing Confusion Between Medicine And Candy

    1. When persuading a child to take his medicine, avoid referring to medicine as ‘candy’.
      1. If parents refer to medicine as ‘candy’, it may help during medicine administration, However, children may later develop a wrong perception whereby they will think that medicine is candy.
    2. Avoid taking medicines in front of children younger than 4 years old.
      1. Children younger than 4 years old usually will try to copy his parents’ behaviour and may take medicine without being noticed by the parents.
    3. Keep your medicines in a separate container, and away from food storage container.
      1. It is best to store medicine in a container that cannot be opened by children (child-proof cap) and label clearly.

    Safe Storage Of Medicine

    1. Keep medicine in its original container so that you can always refer to its label.
    2. Avoid storing medicine in pill box as it can be easily opened by children.
    3. Close the cap of medicine bottle tightly after taking the medicine.
    4. Store your medicine immediately after each use, do not leave your medicine on the table
    5. Keep all medicine out of reach of young children at home.


    1. Drug Registration Guidance Document by National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau, 1st Edition (January 2013)
    2. MIMS Gateway Service Portal
    3. WHO : http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/child/injury/world_report/Poisoning_ english.pdf
    4. WebMD : http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20111017/kids-and-grownups-can-mistake-candy-for-medicine
    5. USFDA : Teaching your children how to use medicine safely (http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/UnderstandingOver-the-CounterMedicines/ucm094876.htm
    Last Reviewed : 15 September 2016
    Writer/Translator : Hazlin bt. Othman
    Accreditor : Munira bt. Muhammad