Pills mistaken for sweets can result in bitter lesson

Health fair advises parents to keep medicine out of children's reach, ensure correct dosages

With pills for coughs, fever and flu now coming in different colours and flavours such as cherry and grape, it can be easy for children to mistake them for sweets.

Pharmacists here say they have seen cases of children being taken to hospital after swallowing the tablets by accident, and yesterday urged parents to keep them out of reach.

This was one of several key messages of a health fair organised by the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore and North West Community Development Council.

Held at Woodlands Civic Centre, the society hopes that the Own Your Health @ North West fair will encourage everyone to take ownership of their health.

Ms Esther Ang, a pharmacist from KK Women's and Children's Hospital, said that young children are curious and prone to taking medications by accident.

The society tried to show how medicines and sweets can be easily confused by displaying two similar gingerbread houses - one made out of sweets, the other out of pills.

RISK OF OVERDOSE

The doses for children are actually very small so any inaccuracy in the volume of medicine being administered can result in a significant increase on the intended dose.

MS NG HONG YEN, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore.

"If placed in common areas, children might just help themselves to it because it looks or tastes like Ribena, for instance," said Ms Ang.

IT professional Jimmy Chong, who has three children aged between six and 12, attended yesterday's fair and said that he will be mindful of storing medicines away properly.

"I was quite surprised to find that some of the medication look like candy," said the 43-year-old.

"As parents, we have to be responsible and not place the medication within their reach."

Aside from keeping pills and medicine out of easy reach, it is important to ensure that the dosage is given correctly.

Ms Ng Hong Yen, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore, said: "Doses for children are actually very small so any inaccuracy in the volume of medicine being administered can result in a significant increase on the intended dose."

She added that parents should use syringes or medicine spoons instead of teaspoons to administer drugs to children.

More than 500 people attended yesterday's event. The guest of honour was Mr Khaw Boon Wan, Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, Minister for Transport and adviser to Sembawang Grassroots Organisations.

Visitors were also taught how to effectively manage minor ailments such as cough and flu.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2016, with the headline 'Pills mistaken for sweets can result in bitter lesson'. Print Edition | Subscribe