We are starting to unthaw here in Calgary! With the return of warmer months we tend to clear out our homes and spruce things up a bit! Are you including your medicine cabinet as part of your spring cleaning routine? If not, we suggest you do! Expired and unused medications are easy to stockpile but they can be unsafe to the rest of our families as well as the environment. It is easy to keep old medications on hand for those “just in case” moments, but if there are other people in your household, especially kids, that don’t take these medications, it can dangerous to keep these things around.
A common example we see with families are kids thinking medicine, especially cold medicine, looks and maybe tastes like candy. We have heard many stories of children going into the medicine cabinet for that cherry flavoured Advil because it was yummy when they had a cold the last time. We want to make sure medication is not only used properly, but that our families understand what the medication is for and when it is appropriate to use it.
Don’t let your medicine cabinet seem like a daunting task, your personal pharmacists have compiled some easy steps to take!
Easy steps to clean out your medicine cabinet
First things first, separate what medication you use and what medication you don’t. It isn’t necessary to keep medication you are not currently taking. Especially if you have younger kids in the house. You do not want them to have access to medication that does not need to be there anymore. We often want to stockpile medication for when it is needed next, but it can be dangerous to leave unused items lying around. It is better to discard of unused medicine rather than it fall into the wrong hands and be used incorrectly. If your doctor has changed your medications and you have leftovers, or if you had pain pills from that one time you hurt your back, clean those out!
Determine expiry dates
It can be a bit tricky determining the expiry dates on medications. Here are some helpful tips; expiry dates for creams can be found at the end of the tube where it is sealed. Most medications that come in blister packages will have an expiry date on the box and on the blister card. If you can’t find the expiry anywhere, it is better to safely dispose of the medication than it is to hang on to it. For prescriptions, we suggest the 1-year rule (if it’s been a year since you filled it, get rid of it!) It is also a good idea to dispose of unmarked containers, if it is not in its original packaging it’s best to let it go. Treat all natural, vitamin, or over the counter medications in the same manner as prescription medications. If you are unsure of any medication, bring it in to us and one of our pharmacists can help you with it.
Drop off expired medication
And now that all of that is done what do we do with everything we cleaned out? Bring it to us of course! Flushing medication down the toilet or putting them in the garbage is unsafe and harmful to the environment. We can safely dispose of all medication for you. Before you bring them in, make sure all patient identifying labels and information is taken off. Keep all liquids and powders in their original packaging to avoid a mess. For needles and diabetic supplies, please make sure they are put in a SHARPS container and not mixed with other medications.
Consider relocating your medicine cabinet
At the end of all this we want to ask ourselves “where we are storing all of these medications?”. Medicine should be stored in a cool dry place away from children. So that “medicine” cabinet in your bathroom is actually not the best choice! The temperature and humidity changes are not good for your medication and can change the potency of it. Try a drawer in your dresser or a higher shelf out of reach from children. Some families even keep medication locked up, whatever works for you!
If you are caring for a family member
Ask us for their medication list. This way you can see what medication they are currently taking and what they should have on hand. If there are several bottles of the same medication, do not combine them! Keep the most recently filled one and discard the others. If there are any changes to their medication, let their pharmacist know and we can update the list. If you are unsure, we can help you go through this.
Come in for a medication review
Bring us your medicine cabinet and we can help you sort through it! If your medicine cabinet has gotten a bit crazy there is no need to stress about sorting it all out! Sit down with your personal pharmacist for a comprehensive medication review to ensure your medication list is up to date. A medication review gives us the opportunity to talk about your health and medication to ensure you are getting the best care possible.