From your health and wellness experts at Prisma Health
Safety
March 16, 2018

Spring clean your medicine cabinet

Courtney Meade, PharmD
Palmetto Health
Spring cleaning—it’s a rite of passage as temperatures begin to heat up and the season starts to change. Remember to add your medicine cabinet, kitchen cupboard or wherever you keep medications to your spring cleaning list.
 
Palmetto Health pharmacist Courtney Meade, Pharm.D., said, “Removing old medicine from a home is an important part of maintaining a healthy and safe household. It prevents family members from taking outdated medicine, removes the risk of self-prescribing and eliminates the risk of someone abusing or accidently ingesting the medications, including children.”
 
Meade provides these tips on spring cleaning your medicine cabinet:
 
  • Check the dates. Throw away any item that is beyond the expiration date or has an expiration date that is no longer readable. Medications may lose their effectiveness after the expiration date. Some may even be poisonous.
  • For prescriptions, follow the one year rule. Discard any prescription medications that are older than 1 year.
  • Make sure you check over-the-counter medications as well. Many times the over-the-counter medications are forgotten so be sure to check your vitamins and supplements.
  • Ditch any items that have changed color, smell or taste. This includes any colors that have faded, because they may have been exposed to too much light.
  • Keep medications in their original containers. This makes them easily recognizable and provides safety because many have tamper-proof tops. This includes ointments, since these can easily be mistaken for daily hygiene items. If it is no longer in its original container, get rid of it.
  • Consider relocating your medicine. The bathroom is not the best place to store medication. Medications should be kept in a cool, dry place, away from children. Consider a drawer in your dresser or a lock box.
  • Prevent drug abuse. Drug abuse is on the rise including among children and teens. Many teens admit that they take prescription medications from their parents or their friends’ parents’ medicine cabinets.
  • Dispose of medication properly to protect the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides guidelines, here, they include: 
    • DON’T: Flush expired or unwanted prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs down the toilet or drain unless the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs you to do so.
    • DO: Return unwanted or expired prescription and over-the-counter drugs to a drug take-back program or follow the steps for household disposal below.
    • For home disposal:
      1. 1. Take your prescription drugs out of their original containers.
      2. 2. Put the mixture into a disposable container with a lid, such as an empty margarine tub, or into a sealable bag.
      3. 3. Mix drugs with an undesirable substance, such as cat litter or used coffee grounds.
      4. 4. Conceal or remove any personal information, including Rx number, on the empty containers by covering it with permanent marker or duct tape, or by scratching it off.
      5. 5. The sealed container with the drug mixture, and the empty drug containers, can now be placed in the trash.

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