Medication Storage

For safety reasons, there are a few medications that the FDA recommends be discarded down the toilet:

A medicine cabinet in your bathroom is definitely not a good place to store medication. Because of the bath or shower, bathrooms can get both warm and humid -- conditions that can compromise the integrity, potency, and shelf-life of your medication. Instead, keep your medicines in a cool, dry place where children cannot access them.

Do not leave the cotton wad in the medicine bottle. The cotton absorbs moisture, which can affect the medicine.

If you must keep medication in a bathroom, be sure the medicine containers are closed tightly. Likewise, if you must keep them in the kitchen, do not store them near a stove, oven, sink, toaster or any other heat-releasing appliance.

Always check with your pharmacist about storage requirements of your medication. Special storage instructions are often printed on a label on the medicine container.

Some medications require refrigeration. Keep all refrigerated medications together in a container in one location -- away from food and out of the reach of young children. Do not keep them on the refrigerator door. Also, make sure they do not freeze in the refrigerator.

Since some medications are not "heat stable", they should not be stored in a car. Even on a mild day, the interior of a car with its windows closed can reach very high temperatures.

Leave medications in their original container. Do not mix different medications in the same container. This can pose a significant danger if there is a suspected overdose or other medical emergency.

Check the expiration date of your medication. If there is no expiration date, discard it if more than six months have passed from when it was purchased.

Do not take any medication that has a changed or unexpected appearance. For example, if the color or consistency of the medicine has changed, or if it has an odor, do not take it. Likewise, it is recommended that you discard any pills or capsules that are stuck together, broken, or chipped.

In general, do not discard medication down your toilet. For most medications, the FDA recommends removing the medication from its container, mixing it in with unappealing garbage (such as coffee grounds or cat litter), and then placing the mixture in a sealed container. One or more of your local pharmacies or hospitals may also offer a program or mechanism for you to safely discard medication.

Note: Experts advise not to refer to the fake candy 'pills' as candy during pill swallowing practice, since swallowing real candy rarely triggers anxiety and the child may not transfer the skill to real medication if he believes he is practicing on candy. In addition, most people typically chew candy and medicine should usually NOT be chewed.

Share the poster, Is It Candy or Medicine?, with your child. Click here to view the poster. It shows the similarities between medications and many well-known brands of candy. It is important to emphasize to your child that although the medicine may look like candy, they are very different.

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