Most of us have a specific place in our home where we keep medicines, but many people disregard the storage instructions. What exactly is "room temperature"? What is the best place for storing medicines? And what happens if they are stored incorrectly?
The packaging helps
Most people pay little attention to the packaging or the enclosed information sheet. In fact, the packaging usually provides important storage information. Where possible, you should store medicines in their original packaging, which provides a degree of protection against light, contamination and damage. You should also keep the enclosed sheet which provides important information on how to use the medicine.
The right temperature
Medicines must be stored at the right temperature if they are to remain effective. Temperatures that are too high can accelerate chemical decomposition processes. Medicines are usually stored in one of the following temperature ranges:
- Room temperature: 15 - 25°C
- In the fridge: 2 - 8°C
- Deep-frozen: -18°C or colder
The ideal place
The bathroom is not an ideal place to store medicines because of the fluctuations in humidity and temperature. Ideally, medicines should be stored in a closed, odour-free cabinet which is protected against humidity and light and has a constant internal temperature. If you store medicines in the fridge, it's best to use the vegetable drawer, which offers a relatively constant temperature. Be sure to keep all medicines out of the reach of children.
It is important to clear out your medicine cabinet and first-aid kit regularly. Look at the use-before date and dispose of medicines that are out of date. If you no longer have the original packaging and want to know whether a medicine is out of date, you can look out for the following signs:
- Tablets can become cracked and discoloured
- Liquids can become opaque or turbid
- The smell of a medication can change
- Ointments and creams can become discoloured and liquefied
Correct disposalIf you have out-of-date medicines at home, it's important to dispose of them correctly. Often they can be returned to the pharmacy. If this is not possible, you should observe the disposal rules that apply where you live. Under no circumstances should medicines be disposed of in ordinary household waste or flushed down the toilet.