When you start to sneeze or cough, the first thing you probably do is head to your medicine cabinet looking for something that can relieve your symptoms. But side effect warnings, expiration dates and possible drug interactions can make you think twice about what’s in that cabinet. Now that the New Year is upon us, it’s an ideal time to give your medicine cabinet a makeover. Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Check expiration dates on both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs. Medicines lose their potency over time, so remove them if expired. Check to see if the medication has changed color, consistency or smell.
2. Start purchasing single-dose drops whenever possible to avoid contamination or having the preservatives break down in the medication.
3. Scan the drugs for warnings about potential risks from certain ingredients. Visit the Food and Drug Administration's website for specific drug information and warnings. Remove any medications that don't have labels or are not stored in their original containers.
4. Re-stock your medicine cabinet with essential homeopathic medicines like Oscillo for flu-like symptoms, Coldcalm for cold symptoms, and Chestal for coughs. These medicines are safe and don’t cause side effects like drowsiness. They also won't interact with other medications or mask symptoms that might indicate a more serious condition.
5. Reorganize the medications in the cabinet so that those you use more frequently are within easy reach. Group together similar medications, and keep an emergency contact information list naming the medications, known drug allergies, and other important information on the inside of the cabinet. Here it can be accessed quickly by paramedics and other emergency personnel.
6. When disposing of unwanted or expired medications, don't dump them down the toilet, unless the patient information tells you to do so. Instead, mix pills with undesirable matter like kitty litter or coffee grounds before placing in a sealed plastic bag for the trash. Also, remove all personal information from the bottles. Contact your local government to see if the community has a drug take-back program.