Hypodermic syringes are made to connect to a needle for injections under the skin; oral syringes are not. Both types of syringes may have caps on their tips that must be removed before use. But the caps on some hypodermic syringes are small and clear, so they may not be noticed. In fact, medicine can be drawn into this type of syringe and given without removing the cap. Tragedy can result if the cap comes loose when giving the medicine.
In one instance, a pediatrician gave parents a hypodermic syringe to give their 5-month-old child a liquid antibiotic. Never noticing the clear cap, the father inserted the tip of the syringe into the medicine, pulled back the plunger, and the medicine flowed into the syringe. When he put the syringe in his child's mouth, and pushed the plunger, the cap popped off and became lodged in the child's airway (see diagram). The child was rushed to the hospital, but sadly, he died.
Because of this choking hazard, the largest seller of hypodermic syringes (Becton, Dickinson and Company) no longer puts caps on their syringes. But some other companies do. Just to be safe, always ask your pharmacist for an oral syringe if your child is taking liquid medicine. Oral syringe caps are colored and shaped to make them easy to see. So they are less likely to be left on the syringe by mistake. Also, caps on oral syringes will not come off easily when you push the plunger.