Household danger: How does your medicine cabinet stack up?

Periodically checking your medicine cabinet can be important to the health and safety of your family, it is a good idea to be aware of what is in there, what is expiring soon and what you need to replace. Medicine cabinets should be checked about every 6-12 months.

What’s wrong with taking expired meds? Well, aside from the fact that they’re less likely to properly treat the conditions for which they were originally prescribed, they can be downright dangerous. Pills, liquids, and tablets can all change their physical and chemical properties over time. You’re better safe than sorry—if the label shows an expired date, it’s time to toss it.

But don’t flush unwanted meds— when you put pills down the drain, they could end up in the water supply.

The best way to dispose of meds is through an authorized Controlled Substance Public Disposal Location. It’s easy to find one near you:

If no medicine take-back program is available in your area, the FDA recommends the following steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash:

  • Mix medicines (do NOT crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds
  • Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag
  • Throw the container in your household trash

Before throwing out your empty pill bottle or other empty medicine packaging, remember to scratch out all information on the prescription label to make it unreadable.

Is your supply in good standing? A good medicine cabinet should have the following items:

  • Daily medications specific to each family member’s needs.
  • Pain relief
  • Cough & Cold remedies
  • Antihistamines (allergy relief)
  • Itching & Swelling relief (hydrocortisone)
  • Antacids
  • Adhesive bandages
  • Adhesive tape
  • Gauze pads
  • Tweezers
  • Thermometer
  • Calibrated measuring spoon
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Disinfectant, such as rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide

Check with your doctor to make sure that you are able to take over-the-counter medications without any drug conflicts, allergic reactions, or dangerous side effects.