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Well and Good: Clean Out The Medicine Cabinet

You clean out your closet, you clean out your refrigerator. But do you ever think about cleaning out your medicine cabinet?

You should. At least once a year, check all prescription and over-the-counter meds in your home to make sure they’re still needed and current. At the same time, you can make sure you are stocked up on all the basics for minor emergencies and illnesses.

I often suggest this time of year as a good time to clean out the medicine cabinet, so you’re ready as flu and cold season approach. Here’s a two-step method:

1. Toss out

  • Check the expiration date on all over-the-counter medicines, and throw out those that are past it. Even though you may think there’s little harm in holding onto cough syrups or pain medicines that are a few months past their expiration date, it does little good, either. Expiration dates are there for a reason; drugs grow less effective as they age.
  • Throw out any unused prescription medicines. Doctors prescribe just the amount of medicine you need to get over your illness, so you shouldn’t have any left over. If you forgot some doses or simply quit taking the medicine because you felt better, you still need to throw away any leftovers, because they won’t necessarily be the right medicine the next time you feel similar symptoms. This is especially true of antibiotics. Not finishing a course of antibiotics, or taking a few leftover pills the next time you feel ill, can actually cause your body to become immune to the healing properties of antibiotics over time.
  • Dispose of meds safely. Do NOT flush them down the toilet. Ask your FRESH pharmacist for handy tips on how to safely dispose of unused medicines. You can also check with your trash service provider for their recommended methods of disposal. If there is no medicine take-back program is available in your area, the FDA recommends consumers follow these steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash:
    • Mix medicines (do NOT crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds.
    • Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.
    • Throw the container in your household trash.

2. Stock up

Your personal medicine chest varies depending on your family’s health and medical needs, but a few basics are a good idea. In general, for medicines that you do not use frequently, buy the smallest size available, so you’ll waste less.

  • Pain and fever reducer (like Tylenol and/or Advil)
  • Allergy and sinus relief (like Benadryl)
  • Anti-diarrheal and anti-gas medicines
  • First aid supplies like bandages and a first-aid spray to prevent infection, pain and itching