Keeping Your Medicine Cabinet Healthy and Safe - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on February 21, 2017

Keeping Your Medicine Cabinet Healthy and Safe

Expired medications are not only likely to be ineffective, but also potentially harmful.

Expired medications are not only likely to
be ineffective, but also potentially harmful.

When you think, “spring cleaning,” a few things probably come to mind: reorganizing closets, scrubbing windows, perhaps even waxing the floors if you’re ambitious. But we often overlook one crucial and potentially dangerous part of our homes—the medicine cabinet.

Whether you keep your medications in a traditional medicine cabinet or in a bin under the sink, it’s important to take the time to clean them out at least once a year. Otherwise, they could pose a serious threat to you and your children.

Expired Medications: Are They Really That Bad?

In short, yes. Expired medications are not only likely to be ineffective, but also potentially harmful.

It’s especially dangerous to take expired medications for chronic or potentially fatal conditions, such as a heart condition, seizures or life-threatening allergies. Medications lose their potency over time, which means you run the risk of not getting the intended benefit and protection if you’re taking medicines after their expiration date.

Start your cleaning process by getting rid of all expired medications, as well as ones that are crumbling, discolored, dried out, or show other signs of damage. These include expired eye or eardrops, which can become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus.

You should also discard any medications your doctor prescribed for past illnesses. Keeping these pills “in case you need them” is very dangerous, as you should never try to treat yourself or anyone else even if the symptoms are similar.

Proper Disposal of Medications

Prescription medications should be taken out of their original containers, crushed, and thrown in the trash. As an extra precaution, mix the crushed pills with food scraps or coffee grinds to make sure that no one else can get hold of them. Another safe option is to check with your local pharmacy and see if they have a disposal program. Avoid flushing medications down the toilet unless instructed to do so, as they may get into the local water supply.

Next Steps

Once you’ve disposed of your expired medications, it’s time to reorganize. Although the medicine cabinet may be your go-to, doctors suggest storing medicine in a cool, dry place such as a nightstand. Medications can be damaged in areas of high heat and humidity like a bathroom.

If you have children or entertain often, it is a good idea to lock up your medications. This can be done by simply purchasing a padlock for your cabinet, which will prevent theft or abuse.

Finally, it’s important to store medications in the bottles they came in to avoid misuse or overdose. Doing so ensures that all medicine is labeled properly and that you know when and how to take it. It will also make your life much easier when it’s time to call the pharmacy for a refill.

So this year when you get ready to start your spring cleaning, don’t forget about the dangers right under your nose—or behind the bathroom mirror. Keep your home healthy and safe by cleaning out your medicine cabinet regularly.

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