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NCCA students prepare for Halloween by distinguishing candy from medication
medicine vs candy
Can you guess which of these is medicine and which is candy? The bears on the top left are adult multivitamins, and the round items on the top right are antacids. - photo by Photo by Terri Fullerton

COVINGTON, Ga. - Pre-K students at the Newton College and Career Academy tested their ability to distinguish candy from medicine in preparation for Halloween.

They discovered it’s difficult to tell the trick from the treat when it comes to medicine. 

The Generation Rx program is from The Ohio State University and used by Newton County 4-H and other UGA Extension offices to teach people about the potential dangers of misusing medications.

Students from Joann Holcombe and Tonia Middlebrooks’ classes each examined pairs of tablets to guess which one was medication and which was really just a piece of candy. They cast their votes with candy corn stickers to graph their results. 

In only one instance out of twelve were students all able to definitively tell which one was the potentially dangerous medicine. 

Most of the medications used in the quiz are over-the-counter medications such as generic Ibuprofen, vitamins and supplements. However, as Diane Payne, school nurse, reminded the group a single acetaminophen taken by a four- or five-year-old can cause lasting liver damage. 

Adding to the danger, a child often won’t eat a single piece of candy, and so likewise may consume a large handful of melatonin, adult multi-vitamins or other supplements before it is discovered.

 In addition, too many prescriptions and over the counter medications looking perilously close to candy, the addition of legal CBD products into the market have added to the dangers of children picking up loose “candy” thinking it is safe to eat. 

Students were reminded to never take medication or candy without the permission of a parent or guardian. 

They identified safe places to store medicine – always up high, in a locked cabinet or box. Medications should always be kept in their original containers.

Children were reminded that prescription medications are only for the person they were prescribed for by the doctor and that they should never share any medication. 

As part of the “Medication Safety Patrol,” they will be reminding parents and grandparents about moving medications which may be improperly stored on countertops and other easily accessible locations. 

Adults also found the “Medication or Candy” quiz to be a challenge. 

 “I was really surprised that so many of the medications looked exactly like candy,” said Jeanene Johnson. “It will make me think twice about my grandchildren being around my medications.”

Georgia law requires that all prescription medications must be carried in their original prescription bottles. 

While this seems like overkill for taking the lunchtime doses to work, the Newton College and Career Academy nurse, Diane Payne, added that it also is for safety reasons.

 “If a child eats the medication from an unlabeled bag or medication container, the hospital will not know how to treat the child after they’ve consumed pills,” said Payne. “Some medicines require pumping the stomach, others may pass through. It’s important to know what they ate.”

She also mentioned that if an officer catches someone carrying unlabeled medications, they could arrest and hold the person until the pills are tested. 

For travel, sending children to camp, or at other times you may want to carry a smaller amount of a prescription, you can work with the pharmacy to provide extra labeled bottles for this purpose. 

This Halloween and throughout the year, don’t let medicines and supplements play a trick on your loved ones – join the “Medication Safety Patrol” with Newton College and Career Academy PreK students.

County Extension Agent Terri Fullerton can bring the Medication Rx “Candy or Medicine” quiz to your civic group, classroom or other groups. She may be reached at 770-784-2010 or