It’s 2 a.m. and as the first flush of fever hits, you head to the bathroom medicine cabinet in search of your favorite “nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, so-you-can-rest” elixir, guaranteed to ensure a good night’s sleep. But a squint at the bottle reveals that what you’re about to swallow expired during the Bush 41 administration.
Could a slurp hurt?
“Absolutely,” says John Aivazis, pharmacy supervisor for 26 Greater Cleveland CVS stores. “There have been so many studies drug companies have conducted in order to get medications on the market. That expiration date is on the package for a reason, and once it passes, the medication should be thrown away.”
Aivazis recommends conducting an inventory every six months and discarding items past their prime. “Too many people are under the mistaken impression that the date can be ignored,” he says.
Speaking of mistakes, adds Aivazis, the whole bathroom medicine cabinet idea is a misnomer in itself: It’s the worst place to keep medication since tablets can congeal and liquids can lose their potency in high humidity. Instead, he advocates tucking it away in a cool, dry, dark area in the kitchen (away from the stove) or bedroom.
What can be left in the bathroom? Medications you use on a daily basis that have a short shelf life, as well as such first-aid items as bandages, gauze, antiseptic and anything that doesn’t have an expiration date.
What's in Your Medicine Cabinet?
Undoubtedly, somewhere in your house is a medicine cabinet. Here’s a list of supplies none should be without:
- First-aid staples, including alcohol wipes, gauze pads, adhesive bandages and tape to cover cuts and scrapes
- Tweezers to remove splinters
- A thermometer
- Benadryl to treat allergy symptoms or allergic reactions
- Pain relievers (such as Tylenol, Advil or Aleve) for headaches and body aches
- Saline nasal spray to alleviate nasal congestion
- An antacid (such as Tums or Rolaids) to calm an upset stomach
- A calibrated measuring spoon to ensure proper dosage of medications