Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

November 7, 2011

The one in which my son eats one of my Grandma's pills

It's a classic case of mistaken identity and it happened to us this weekend.

Staying at my Grandma's house comes with plenty of hazards, mainly in the form of excessive amounts of lemonade, trifle and out-of-date biscuits, but a new hazard presented itself this time we visited and it took the form of a 400mg ibuprofen tablet. She'd dropped it earlier in the day and placed it on the sideboard. My 4-yr-old saw it and, thinking it was a sweet, popped it into his mouth.

The first I knew, he was spitting a vibrant pink mush out of his mouth complaining that 'this isn't very sweetie-ish'. Alarm bells started to ring and it became clear that he'd helped himself to a tablet. But what tablet and were there any others? Did he swallow any? Had my 6-yr-old eaten anything? Serious discussions were had and satisfied that it was just the one tablet, and that, as far as we could see, he hadn't actually swallowed any, I called NHS Direct for advice.

By this time, all seemed to be fine with my son and Grandma, feeling guilty, presented him with a ginormous bowl of ice cream. So, when the advisor at the end of the phone (going through a routine questionnaire which bizarrely included questions such as 'Did the individual take this in order to self-harm' and 'Has the individual swallowed a coin or battery') asked me whether he was gasping for breath, going limp or blue around the lips, I happily said 'No, he's eating ice cream.' What on earth it must be like to endure those endless questions if your child was gasping for breath, going limp or blue around the lips, God only knows - and I hope I never find out.

The NHS Direct service was very efficient and the nurse called me back within 10 minutes to reassure me that he would not come to any harm even if he had ingested a little of the tablet and that there was no added complication because he'd been taking Benilyn for a cough.

Nevertheless, I put him in bed with me that night and didn't sleep a wink while I watched him like a hawk and wondered why pharmaceutical companies make their tablets in such child-appealing colours. Why not make them a dull grey or something a child would be less likely to confuse with a sweet?

Anyway, it was a lesson learnt for all of us and I would urge any Grandmas reading to take note: keep all medication well out of the reach of Grandchildren - and perhaps ease back a bit on the portions of ice cream too.



  1. Actually thinking about it, they need to just get rid of the sugary coating - most children will spit out foul tasting stuff and well, adults can learn to swallow pills quickly

    Glad he's ok and you're not too much of a nervous wreck

  2. Oh dear, poor you, what a nightmare.
    Sadly the sugar coated shells are needed as they are designed to protect the stomach lining... However Ibrufren does look like a smartie.

    It was always a huge fear of mine too - but senna tablets dont look half as attractive

    I suppose a story about a cat swallowing a morphine tablet wouldnt cheer you up??? Thankfully survived, but has now learnt to 'just say no' after a very trippy experience....The owner was mortified to say the least.


  3. Oh no, every parent's nightmare. So glad your boy came to no harm. You're right of course, pills should like the horrible medicine they are and not pretty as candy! And grandparents need to be more thoughtful about their medicines and children.

    xx Jazzy

  4. How terrifying. I agree with Muddling - why not get rid of the sugary coating. When I was taking iron tablets a while back you could buy the plain version or the one with the sugary coating. Do they really need to manufacture both?

  5. Poor thing, you must have been out of your mind with worry!

  6. Oh dear - like you say - the classic. At least he spat it out. Daisy drank a bottle of Calpol once - lovely day in Crumlin after that one...

  7. Argh. I had an incident when teen was a toddler. I had given her some cough medicine and not put the top back on properly. (First child. Clueless.) Next thing I know she was sitting in the corner sucking on the dropper. Panic. The Poison Control people (as they are called here) said even if she had taken the whole (small) bottle she'd be OK. But Phew!!!
    BTW - swallowing a battery, no matter how small, is a completely different kettle of fish. Just had a chid in my neighbourhood die because they didn't realise what had happened till too late.

  8. Thank goodness those things are not very sweet-ish.

  9. oh dear, how scary for you. Its a good thing those tablets taste so horrible isn't it?

    I'm so glad all was ok. xx

  10. Funny it was only today I was telling a mate of mine my son goes for his grandmother's meds too. I usually have to dive and hide things before he clocks them.


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