Pills or Candy

Medicine SafetyRules and Tips for Communication, Safe Dosing, & Safe Storage

Each year, Poison Control, 1 800 222 1222 receives many calls and emergency departments see a lot of children because of medicine mistakes. Either kids took medicine by accident because much of the time medicine is made to look and taste like candy or it was not safely stored and they got into it. Or, they received an improper dosage of their medicine.

Children are fast and during the few minutes that a parent or caregiver is not looking or paying attention they get into a purse or climb onto a counter or get into low cupboards. You can prevent this type of mistake by keeping medicine locked up, out of reach, and out of sight. Never call medicine, candy. Don’t let your toddler see you taking medicine, wait until they are at least 4 years of age and explain what you are doing and that no one should ever take someone else’s medicine. Teach them to always STOP and ASK FIRST before eating or drinking anything.

Understand Proper Dose: Read all the information on the medicine label and follow the directions. Do not give a child medicine more often or in greater amounts than is stated on the package.

Use the Right Tool: Always measure your child’s dose using the dosing device (oral syringe or dosing cup) that comes with the medicine. If you do not have a dosing device, ask your pharmacist for one. Do not use household spoons to give medicines to children.

Get Questions Answered: If you do not understand the instructions on the label, or how to use the dosing device, talk to your pharmacist or doctor before giving the medicine.

Remember Vitamins are Medicine: Do not treat them as candy or a treat.

Safe Medicine Storage

After taking medicine, return it immediately to the proper storage area. Store medicines up and away and out of the sight and reach of young children.



  • Locate a Safe Area: The storage area should be up and away and out of sight and reach of young children.
  • Double Check the Safety Cap: Be certain to relock the cap on bottles. Twist the cap until you hear the click or cannot twist anymore.
  • Put the Medicine Away Immediately: After locking the safety cap, it’s important to always put medicines back in their safe storage location. Curious children act fast, so never leave medicine out on a kitchen counter or at a sick child’s bedside, even if you have to give it again in a few hours.
  • Remind Guests: Ask family members, houseguests, and other visitors to keep purses, bags, or coats with medicine in them up, away, and out of sight when they are in your home.
  • When Traveling: If you are staying with family, friends, or at a hotel, find a safe storage place that is out of sight and reach of young children, like a high cabinet. If you’re in a hotel room, try the passcode-protected room safe for storage.

Be Prepared:

  • Call Poison Control: At 1 800.222.1222 right away if you think your child might have gotten into a medicine or vitamin, even if you are not completely sure.
  • Program or Post the Poison Help Number:  Program it into your cell phones & post a magnet on your refrigerator so you have the number when you need it (no-cost professional help, 24 hours a day/365 days a year, same number anywhere in the United States).

The Pills or Candy interactive tool was designed by the Missouri Poison Center.