10/26/2011 03:14 pm ET Updated Dec 26, 2011

Medicine Or Candy? Kid Scientists Show How Easily They Can Be Mistaken

By Rose Eveleth
(Click here for the original article and podcast)

Can you tell the difference between a pill and an M&M? Can your toddler?

Candies and medicine often look similar – but confusion between these little shiny morsels could be very dangerous. And it's not just children who mistake treatments for treats. A small study by two smart sixth graders found that more than one in four kindergarteners, and one in five teachers, has difficulty telling the difference between medicine and candy.

Casey Gittelman and Eleanor Bishop asked 30 kindergarteners and 30 teachers to guess which items in a cabinet were candies, and which were medicine. The medicines most frequently confused were Mylanta and Tums for SweetTarts, Sine-off for Reese's Pieces, and Coricidin for M&Ms. Kindergarteners who could not read were even more likely to mistake medicine for candy. The girls presented their results at the national conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics on October 14th.

Do you think you or your children could definitely tell the difference between a Reese's Pieces and a Clonidine? If not, you should probably secure your medicine cabinet to keep a mistake about sweets from turning sour.