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Is that Halloween Candy or Pills?

October 24, 2018
Posted by: Gerald “Pharmacist Jerry” Finken, RPh, MS; Contributor, Meghan Mosser

Is that Halloween Candy or Pills?

October is not just National Pharmacists month or a good month to get your flu shot, it is also avery meaningful month  to me. Why? One word: Halloween. I love it because of the  excitement and imagination it inspires in kids, younger and older.

It’s so much fun to get dressed up as our favorite action hero, skeleton, ghost, or monster…you get the picture…AND get monumental amounts of free candy.

As a kid, I remember Halloween being a wonderful experience. I learned early on to make sure my costume would not inhibit my ability to run from house to house to maximize the potential of each trick or treat.

I learned to take several bags with me. At each new house, I would hide the bag with all the candy so that my unknowing, friendly neighbor would be inclined to be even more generous!  We had it down to a science and we would cover miles of “territory”.

Trick-or-Treating was a wonderful community event and safe. Unfortunately, or fortunately, times have changed.

I remember that the main reason we would throw out our “loot” was because the candy wrapper was damaged, which most likely meant the candy was stale. Of course, I would take a bite first, just to make sure.  Today, we throw out candy with damaged wrappers because of concerns with tampering.

The other reason we threw out candy–or traded it with siblings–was because we did not like it. One of these for one or two of those, depending on the interest.

As an adult and as a pharmacist, my biggest concern today,   is that many candies look like a prescription capsule.

Candy shapes and pills are ambiguous. Children and adults alike can inadvertently and unintentionally mistake one for another. Besides candy bars, most candy is round or oblong like the shape of a pill.

With  Halloween around the corner next week, I would like to remind everyone that it is extremely important that we all pay attention as well as educate our children to be aware and to ask before indulging in their candy bags.

Allow me to state what might be obvious to some – BEWARE of your child’s Halloween candy!

Check it all. The extra caution could make the difference between a wonderful event and a potential tragedy.

No, I am not overstating it.

On Halloween in 2017 an article was published by ABC ACTION NEWS about Tramadol being found in a 3-year-old’s Halloween candy bag. It was claimed that it was a pure accident, which would make me even more worried as a parent.

Another article, published in Time last year, shared of an incident where a parent found Meth in their child’s Halloween candy. Luckily, the child did not consume it because the parent thoroughly checked their child’s candy. It was concluded to be unclear whether or not the Meth was planted on purpose.

Community pharmacists have a unique opportunity this Halloween to counsel patients and children on the importance of medication and Halloween safety. In addition, pharmacists should always gently counsel parents on the importance of keeping medications safe and away from children to prevent accidental ingestion.

I think we all get the point. So, on to the fun stuff.

On behalf of the Center Point Clinical Services team, I’d like to wish you and your family a safe, enjoyable and delicious Halloween, complete with good candy bags, creative costumes and loads of laughter.

I think I’ll dress up as a PBM representative and scare every community pharmacist I meet.

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