ONCE opened, medicine is introduced to germs and the clock starts ticking on its shelf life.
Yet according to a poll conducted by a leading pharmaceutical company about 89% households haven’t cleaned out their medicine cabinet in the past two years.
Pharma Dynamics spokesperson, Nicole Jennings, says they found that many South Africans fail to get rid of unneeded medicines at home.
Jennings says one of the dangers of keeping unused medication at home is that it often leads to misuse among teenagers.
“Another concern is accidental medicine overdose, which is surprisingly common in SA. Leftover medication is often used to self-medicate, but when the wrong combination of medicines is mixed to treat minor ailments, the consequences could be serious. Equally, in children, where there is easy access to multiple medicines, it could be fatal. About 40% of calls to the Poisons Information Centre at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital concerning children under the age of five, are due to the ingestion of medicines,” she says.
She encourages the public to rather dispose of medicines by contacting their local pharmacy to find out if they offer an environmentally-friendly disposal programme.
Suggested ways to clean out your cabinet:
1. Discard expired medications and even those that you’ve opened some time ago. Good practice is to write the date you’ve opened it on, on the product itself and to discard even general hygiene products a year thereafter.
2. Throw away any medicine or ointments that have changed colour, taste or odour, which might be due to too much exposure to sunlight or heat.
3. Before disposing of medicine be sure to remove or scratch out all personal information from bottles and packaging to keep your medical information private.
4. Check that medical devices, such as thermometers, blood pressure monitors or nebulisers are still in good working order.
5. Always store medication on a high shelf where children cannot reach. Avoid storing it in a bathroom cabinet, as steam from showers and baths can expedite their expiry. It’s best to store medicine in a dry, cool place.
6. An easy way to keep an inventory of the medicines you keep at home and to ensure you don’t double up on medicines you already have, is to group them in categories, such as cold and flu medication, pain and fever, allergies etc.