05 September 2013

Spring Cleaning Your Medicine Cabinet

This is an article re-print from the September 2012 edition of The Cheapskates Journal

During spring cleaning, we’re eager to dig into the cupboards and get rid of stuff that’s just taking up valuable space. But all too often, we forget about one of the most cluttered spaces in the house: the medicine cabinet.

Medicine cabinets are prone to clutter and disorganization. Some of us are on lots of medications, and it’s just hard to keep track of it all. And for those who rarely take medicine, it’s easy for the cabinet to fill up with barely-used bottles and boxes.

Here are some tips for getting your medicine cabinet nice and tidy.

•    Step away from the rubbish bin. Before you get started, it’s important to know that medications should not be thrown directly in the trash. Many should not be flushed down the toilet either, because they can contaminate the water supply. Put all the drugs you’re getting rid of in a box or bag and take them to a pharmacy that offers a take-back program. If you can’t find one, pour the pills into a sealable plastic bag with kitty litter or coffee grounds before putting them in the rubbish.

•    Start by throwing out anything that’s expired. Expired medicines have most likely lost their potency, and some may even become toxic after the expiration date. Even if it looks fine or has never been opened, get rid of it. This also applies to items that have been removed from their original packaging or have illegible expiration dates.

•    Weed out items that will expire soon. If you know you won’t use something before it expires, there’s no reason to keep it. Over-the-counter drugs may be given to someone else who will use them quickly, but prescription drugs should be tossed.

•    Dispose of partial rounds of antibiotics. When the doctor gives you antibiotics, it’s crucial to take the entire prescription to eradicate the infection and help prevent resistant strains of bacteria from developing. But if you’ve failed to do so or had to switch antibiotics in the middle of a course, you may have half full bottles or packets of them in your medicine cabinet. These should always be thrown out. Antibiotics lose potency quickly, and partial courses are usually ineffective even at full potency.

•    Consolidate duplicate items. Partial boxes of band aids and other non-perishable supplies can be consolidated to save space. If you have several open containers of the same drug in the same dosage, you could put them together as well. Just make sure that you put them in the container with the closest expiration date.

When you have finished throwing out old and unneeded medications, it’s time to restock the essentials. Make sure you have plenty of first aid supplies, such as band aids, gauze and antibiotic ointment. Other staples include:
•    Emergency medications such as asthma inhalers and allergy medicines
•    Over-the-counter pain relievers
•    Any medication you take on a regular basis
•    Sunscreen
•    Aloe (for sunburn and other burns)
•    Heating/cooling packs

Now that you have more space, you can organize your medicine cabinet so that you can find things quickly when you need them. And more importantly, you won’t have to worry as much about accidentally taking something that could harm you.

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