Most people have a medicine cabinet in the house somewhere, filled with opened but unfinished dosages of cold medicines and boxes of Band-aids ranging from plain flesh-colored to those of the Hello Kitty or Spider Man variety. But just as spring cleaning comes around and it’s time to get rid of all those clothes you don’t wear anymore, your medicine cabinet should also go through a periodic makeover. What do you keep? What do you toss? And how do you decide? Here are some tips to take your medical stash from old and useless to current and prepared for any emergency!
You should clean out your store of various drugs and remedies once a year at the least. Most people only realize the lack of attention they’ve given their medicine cabinet when they start to look for something, only to discover that their drug collection is in shambles. As you survey its contents, make sure to throw away things you don’t need anymore and stock up on items you’ll commonly need. Organize the shelves or boxes in a way that will allow the frequently used items to be easily accessible in case of an emergency. Pain prescriptions, drugs to fight the cold or flu, basics for stomach pain, and items used for cuts and splinters like Band-aids and ointment are all things that should be handy as well. Put these remedies in an order that makes sense to you. For example, if you have small children, you may need Band-aids more often than aspirin, so these should go toward the front or top of the storage container.
When starting the task of inspecting each item, first things first: throw away all expired goods. Go through every bottle and box in the cabinet and take a look at the date on the package. If it’s expired, toss it. If not, keep it if you need it. Here’s the catch, though. There’s a proper way to dispose of drugs, and then there’s the improper way. Remember not to keep expired drugs in places where kids could access them. In fact, just don’t keep them at all! And contrary to what you may have done for years, do not flush expired drugs, prescription or not, down the toilet. They can get into the water supply and that’s just bad news!
The safest way to dispose of drugs is to take them out of the original container and mix them with an undesirable substance. For example, you could take the expired Advil you found, mash it up, and mix it with some old coffee grounds or leftover food scraps. When you’ve made a gross mixture, put it into a disposable container, remove or conceal any personal information, and place the whole thing in the trash. Alternatively, some local pharmacists will offer to dispose of expired drugs safely, letting you skip the dirty work entirely.
Before you completely reorganize your medicine cabinet, consider whether this is a good place to store all of the medical essentials in your house. Sometimes the medicine cabinet can be the worst place in the house to keep drugs because the humidity of the bathroom can damage the effectiveness of the drugs’ active ingredients and cause them to wear out sooner than they would had they been stored elsewhere. If you don’t have kids, you can place all the medicines in a shoe box or plastic container and place it under your bed, on your dresser, or another accessible place. If you do have children, be sure to choose a storage location out of reach of little hands.
Having an inventory of useful drugs can be a life saver when you (or your child) are in so much pain that a trip to the store seems impossible. Basics like non-drowsy cold and flu medicines are always practical to have around, as are antacids for stomach aches. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin are great for general aches and pains, including headaches, fevers, and menstrual cramps. In addition, you should always have a first aid kit somewhere in the house, complete with round-tipped scissors in case you need to cut a piece of clothing off in an emergency.