What's Lurking in Your Medicine Cabinet?
Most of us have a dusty pill bottle (or five!) lurking on our shelves. Here's how to keep your medicine cabinet up to date and ready for any emergency.
First step: check expiry dates
Past-their-date medications don't hold any risk of toxicity, says Sarah Pooler, a Toronto-based drug-information pharmacist, but they're going to be less effective than their fresher counterparts. "The best-before date is based on the product stability in the original, sealed container. Once the container is open, the expiry date no longer applies and a product may start to lose its efficacy." she says. A good rule of thumb, if you've had a product open for a year or longer, is to add it to the 'toss it' pile.
Any prescribed medication left over from past illnesses should be tossed, too; a new bladder infection warrants a new prescription. Don't forget to check the date on your vitamins and supplements, and also take a look at everything in your first-aid kit. Liquid medications (such as cough syrup or kids' pain relief) are not as stable as tablets and may harbour unhealthy bacteria even within the expiry date. "You want to look at creams, lotions, prescriptions, eyedrops and ointments," says Pooler. "Anything that looks cloudy or discoloured should be tossed."
How to safely dispose of medications
Once you've got your pile, it's time to dispose of it all-carefully. "Flushing them [down the toilet] is an environmental concern; you're putting those medications into the water system," says Pooler. And if you're tossing them in the garbage, they may become a danger for children and pets
Instead, put the pills in a bag or container and take it to your local pharmacy. "Most pharmacies will have contracts with waste-removal companies that take it away and safely incinerate it."
Now that you've cleared out the old, it's a good time to refresh and make sure you have a properly kitted-out cabinet. You should have on hand:
• Pain relief (in both adult and children's formulations)
• Upset-stomach relief (such as Pepto-Bismol)
• Bug spray
• Topical antibiotic (such as Polysporin)
• Antiseptic spray