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The Safety Hazard Lurking in Your Medicine Cabinet

December 31, 2019
Published in: Primary Care

Illustration of various types of medicine

Open any medicine cabinet, and you'll find common health supplies like toothpaste, Q-tips, ointment, and of course, medicine. Having medicine in the home requires steps to make sure it's stored and properly accounted for. According to the National Poison Control Center, recent data shows that over 2 million calls are made annually because of poison exposure. Medications are the most common substance associated with poisoning for adults. Medication poisoning is also the leading cause of pediatric fatalities reported to Poison Control. There are steps that everyone that stores medicine in their home needs to take to ensure safekeeping. Let's take a look at what you can do to avoid this potential safety hazard.

Safe Medication Storage

Most people know to store medication where children can't reach them. Even better, you should store medication where children can't reach it or see it. The best prevention for children is to keep temptation out of reach and sight. Store your medication in a container that can be locked. Some medications are not recommended for storage in the bathroom where they can be exposed to humidity and moisture. Check with your doctor for the appropriate storage of your specific medications.

Safe Identification

There's no better storage for your medication than the original bottle or packaging that it comes in. Pills often look similar to one another. If you put your pills in a separate pill container, you're at greater risk for accidentally taking the wrong medicine or not taking your medication properly. Make sure to always look at the pill bottle to check the name of the medication and the dosing. This is an easy way to make sure you're taking the right medicine the right way every time.

It's also important to keep pet medications in their own distinct location to avoid confusion with your medication. In addition, keep tubes of ointment separate from where you keep your toothpaste to avoid a mishap. These simple steps can go a long way in preventing a crisis.

Safe Dosage

Caregiver giving a patient her medicationChecking your medication label every time you take it to double-check it's the right one and remind yourself of the dosage is key. For liquid meds, make sure to use the original measurement cup or syringe for dosing. Household tablespoons or teaspoons are not accurate tools for measuring a medication dosage.

Make sure to take your medication exactly as directed. Do not crush or break pills unless directed. Ingesting crushed pills could make the medication more potent or make it not work as well. Either way, altering the state of your medication could be hazardous.

One of the common mistakes people make with medication is taking someone else's medication. Never take another person's medication. Your doctor doses your medication based on your specific needs. You're also increasing your risk of an allergic reaction if you take a medication that isn't prescribed to you.

Safe Disposal

Make sure to go through your medications at least once a year to make sure they haven't expired. If they have expired check with your local pharmacy about their safe disposal program. It was once a common recommendation to flush unused medications, but this is no longer the case. Medications in the water system are linked to environmental hazards.

If you have any questions about your medication storage, identification, dosage, or disposal—speak with a pharmacist or your primary care physician.