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Pill Or Candy? Can You Guess Which Of These Is Medicine?

I couldn't let the week pass without a quick quiz.

Which one of the four red tablets in the picture is medicine? The mystery pill is Coricidin HPB, an over-the-counter cold remedy, if that helps. The candies are M&M's and a Skittle. Pull the slider to the right for the answer.

If you didn't get it right, don't feel bad.

A precocious Ohio girl asked 30 kindergartners and 30 teachers at the Ayer Elementary School outside Cincinnati to identify the candy and the medicine in 20 matched pairs — including Coricidin and an M&M — supplied by the local poison control center. Teachers were wrong 22 percent of the time. Kindergartners got the wrong answers 29 percent of the time.

On the Coricidin-M&M challenge, one of the tougher pairs, the volunteers were wrong 43 percent of the time.

Casey Gittleman, a seventh-grader who happens to be the daughter of two doctors, and her friend Eleanor Bishop, conducted the study. "I was surprised that adults and kids had around the same score," she tells Shots. "I expected the adults to do a lot better than the kids."

That's Casey in the picture presenting the findings at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Boston earlier this week. "I was a little nervous," she says. "But once I was up there I presented it how I practiced."

Casey's parents are both emergency room doctors, so the study, which she did for a sixth-grade science fair project seemed like a natural. She's used to hearing them talk over dinner about medical cases, including kids' mistakenly gobbling down medicine.

Her father, Dr. Mike Gittelman, who works at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, helped out and watched her anxiously in Boston. "I typically don't get very nervous when I present my research," he says. "And I was very nervous when she presented. She was great. She knew it cold."

Casey would like to be a doctor or a lawyer when she grows up. And her project has gotten a lot media attention.

Her father says there's a good reason, beyond his daughter's involvement, to pay attention to the findings. Unintentional ingestions of medicine are the top cause of hospitalization due to injury at Cincinnati Children's, he says.

Colleagues at the hospital recently published a paper that document a rising number of pharmaceutical poisonings of kids, usually when they mistakenly consume the medicines. Narcotic painkillers, sleeping pills and diabetes pills are among the drugs that pose high risks.

"Even small amounts of medicine can cause overdose-type problems" in children, Dr. Gittelman says. One way to prevent the accidents is to keep medicines locked up.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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