Medication expiration dates matter
You hear your child coughing as he plays in the next room. After listening for a few minutes, you decide it’s bad enough that you should give him some cough medicine. Then, you discover the medicine expired three months ago. Now you must load your child into the car to purchase new medicine to ensure you aren’t risking his health by giving him expired medication.
Keeping track of the expiration date of medicines and properly disposing of them is important to you and your family’s health and safety.
Dangers of expired medicines
In 1979, the FDA passed a law that required all medications – prescriptions and over-the-counter – display an expiration date on the packaging. You can find the expiration date on the label or on the bottom of the medicine container.
The expiration date on your medications is the date until which the drug manufacturer guarantees the safety and potency of the medicine. Expired medicines can be less effective and potentially dangerous when consumed because the chemical composition changes as they deteriorate. People with diabetes are particularly at risk because insulin loses its potency over time. Additionally, bacterial growth can occur with some medications, which can lead to antibiotic resistance and an even more serious illness.
Clean out the cabinet
How often should you clean out your medicine cabinet? You should clean out your medicine cabinet at least once a year. Discard all expired medications (over-the-counter and prescriptions), vitamins, minerals and topical solutions. Be sure to dispose of items properly – away from children and pets.
Here are some important tips to know when you clean out your medicine cabinet:
- Any creams in tubs (instead of tubes) that are open will start to turn yellow when exposed to air, and their efficacy may decrease. You should discard these as soon as they start to change color.
- Discard liquids when they separate into layers.
- Be sure to properly store your medications in order to preserve them as long as possible. Extreme temperature, light, moisture and oxygen can impact the medicines in your cabinet.
Remember, if someone has tampered with your medication prior to your opening it, don’t use it. It could be contaminated.
Keep track of when your medications expire by downloading the Medicines I Should Have in my Medicine Cabinet spreadsheet and checklist.
Photo credit: 123RF Stock Photo
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