Has it been a while since you cleaned out your medicine cabinet? Most experts recommend that your medicine cabinet be cleaned out at least every six months to discard medications that have expired or could be medically unsafe. You may be confused as to when to throw away medicines and which ones should be discarded. Here are some guidelines:
Throw away medicines that have expired.
Most prescription and nonprescription medications have an expiration date printed on them. When cleaning out your medicine cabinet, discard any medications that are past their expiration date. Although these meds may not be dangerous, chances are they’ve lost their effectiveness if they’re past their date. Be particularly cognizant about disposing of expired antibiotics. The antibiotic Tetracycline can have adverse effects on the kidneys when taken past its expiration date. If you have over the counter medications with no expiration listed, discard them if you’ve had them in your cabinet for more than a year.
Throw away medicines that have been discontinued or deemed ineffective or dangerous.
Occasionally prescription and nonprescription drugs will be pulled off the market due to their potential to cause harm. Be aware of this information and discard any meds that have been deemed dangerous or ineffective by the FDA. Examples would be certain anti-inflammatories such as Vioxx and any medication containing ephedra, a once popular ingredient in over the counter weight loss medications. Also remove any over the counter medications or supplements that have been shown to be ineffective by more recent studies.
Throw away medicines in broken containers.
This is particularly important if you have children in the house. All meds should be kept in properly closed containers with child proof tops. If the top won’t seal properly, discard the medication immediately. You don’t want to endanger small children who might get into your med supply. Even better, keep all your medications in a locked box.
Throw away medicines with illegible labels.
If the typing on the label is worn away and you can no longer read the expiration date or the dosage instructions, toss the medication. The medication is probably older than you think and may no longer be effective.
Throw away liquid medications that have separated.
Inspect any bottles of liquid medication in your medicine cabinet. If you find bottles of medication where the contents have separated or have a strange odor, discard them immediately. Be sure to shake the bottle before assessing the contents as some settling may have occurred. Check expiration dates on all liquid medications.
Dispose of medications properly.
Medications should never be poured down the sink or into the toilet. There’s been recent concern about medications in the water supply not being adequately cleared by water treatment plants. Don’t add to this problem by flushing medications. For solid pills, it’s best to crush them into powder and place them into a sealed plastic bag for disposal in the trash. Liquid medications should be poured into a plastic bag with sawdust added to soak up the liquid. The bag should then be sealed and disposed in the trash. When you throw away old prescription bottles, remove the label to protect you identity and prevent another person from possibly filling the prescription.
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Don’t put you or your family at risk by keeping old, expired medications in your medicine cabinet. Spend some time every few months, doing a medication clean up job and protect the health of you and your family.