Do You Know What’s in Your Medicine Cabinet?

Do You Know What’s in Your Medicine Cabinet?

Suzanne Kelly_PharmacistBy Suzanne Kelly, Pharmacist, Covenant Care

Have you ever taken the time to check the contents in your medicine cabinet?  Where is your medicine cabinet?  Or, better yet, where do you keep your medicines?  Most people will say that the medicine cabinet is in the bathroom; however, they keep their medicines in various places.  Some medicines are kept near the bed to remind you to take then when you go to bed.  Others are kept in the refrigerator, bathroom drawer, kitchen cabinet or on a table, and the list goes on and on.  So, now that we have identified where your medicines are, take a few minutes to make sure that they have not expired.

At least once a year, look through your medicine supply.  Always store medicines in a cool, dry place or as stated on the label.  Keep all medicines in their original containers to make sure no one takes the wrong medicines.  Throw away any medicines that are past the expiration date.  If any of your medications are out of date, put them aside to dispose of properly.

Keep the external medications away from those you take by mouth.  Don’t forget to keep toothpaste, hemorrhoid cream and other preparations separate, as you don’t want to brush your teeth with a hemorrhoid cream.

What is the proper way to dispose of your medicines?  The best way is to drop them in a medication disposal box.  These possibly could be found at your city police department and/or independent pharmacy.  Contact your local law enforcement agency to find out who offers a “take-back program.”

If no medicine take-back program is available where you live, and there are no explicit directions for disposal, then follow these simple instructions:

  • Dissolve all tablets and capsules with hot water in a sealable plastic bag or sturdy container.
  • Add liquid medications (i.e. cough syrup, diphenhydramine, etc.) to the mixture.
  • Mix with an unpalatable substance, such as kitty litter, dirt, or used coffee grounds.
  • Throw plastic bag in your household trash.
  • Scratch out all personal information on the prescription label (e.g. name, prescription number, patient number.)
  • Pull off labels, if possible, and shred.

The most common medication error is taking the improper dose of medicine, which accounts for 41% of fatal medication errors.  Taking the wrong drug and using the wrong route of administration accounted for 16% of the errors.  Stay safe by ensuring that you are taking the correct medications and that they are in date.  Avoid medication errors by getting rid of expired medications or those which have been discontinued.

What can you do at home to decrease the chance of a medication errors?

  • Make a medication list and include over-the-counter meds, vitamins, supplements, herbal products, energy drinks, creams, ointments, eye drops, nasal sprays, inhalers, etc.
  • Write down medication and food allergies.
  • Keep your medications in a safe place away from children and pets.
  • Store pet medications separately from your medicines.
  • Read the label EVERY time you take a dose.
  • Don’t crush, chew or break capsules/tablets unless instructed.
  • Use the dosing cup that came with the medicine.