Spring clean your medicine cabinet

It’s that time of year again – spring cleaning time! Clearing out your medicine cabinet is just as important as spring cleaning your home because some medicines may have expired and could be really harmful to you and your family. Not only are expired medicines potentially toxic, but many lose their effectiveness, so you’re not actually saving money by hanging onto them for “just in case”.

Here are some useful tips on how to spring clean your medicine cabinet, including what to keep and how to store it, as well as how to dispose of expired medicines safely.

  1. Check expiration dates

Check everything in your medicine cabinet, including prescription medicines, over-the-counter products, natural remedies, ointments, supplements and vitamins for an expiration date. Set aside everything that has expired, including prescription medication that is more than one year old. When in doubt, set it aside and ask your pharmacist.

  1. Check for changes in colour, smell or taste

Also set aside anything that has changed colour (including fading), odour or taste possibly due to heat or sunlight exposure.

  1. Discard unmarked containers

Do not keep anything that cannot be identified because it’s not in its original container. You don’t want to mistake anything for something it’s not as it could be seriously harmful.

  1. Keep only the essentials

Do not keep any medicines that have caused allergic reactions or side effects. Only keep what you need and that hasn’t expired. Some essentials to keep in your medicine cabinet are treatments for pain, fever, nausea and diarrhoea, as well as an antiseptic solution and allergy medicine. Of course, any unexpired chronic medication you’ve been prescribed should also be kept.

  1. Store medicine safely

It’s always best to store medicine in a cool, dry place out of reach of children and pets. Avoid storing medicine in a bathroom cabinet as temperature and humidity changes can make it expire faster. Also make sure that your medicine is not stored in direct sunlight.

Also, keep your medicines in their original packaging so as not to confuse them.

  1. Store medicine the smart way

To make your next spring cleaning session a breeze, follow these tips:

  • Place your medicine in categories in your cabinet, for example, medicines for colds and flu, pain and fever, and chronic medicine.
  • If any container does not have a visible expiry date, write the date you opened the product on the product itself and dispose of it a year later. Opening a product exposes it to germs, which makes the product expire faster.
  • Keep an inventory of the medicine you’re keeping so that you don’t buy what you already have. You can place the inventory on the inside of your cabinet for easy referral.
  1. Dispose of medicine safely

Never place expired or unwanted products in the bin, nor flush them down the toilet. All medical waste poses a hazard to other people and the environment whether it ends up on a landfill or as trace amounts in the water supply. Children and pets could also easily take expired medicine out the bin without your knowledge.

Contact your nearest pharmacy and find out whether they offer an environmentally friendly medical waste disposal programme. Alternatively, take all old medicine to your nearest hospital or clinic, where it will be placed in biohazard containers for incineration.

Extra tip: Before disposing of medicines, remove or scratch out any personal information on container labels to keep your medical information private.

Did you know?

  • Medicine used for the treatment of the 26 Chronic Disease List (CDL) and 16 Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMB) conditions are covered by Scheme benefits without an annual financial limit across all Bestmed plans.
  • Bestmed’s designated services provider (DSP) pharmacies, that have committed to providing cost-effective medicines at competitive dispensing fees, which are capped at a lower level than non-network pharmacies are Dis-Chem, Clicks, Pick n Pay Pharmacy, MediRite (in Checkers and Shoprite stores), Script Wise (S Buys courier) and Pharmacy Direct.
  • Bestmed members on applicable options can claim certain vitamins, minerals and sunscreens as part of the Scheme’s over-the-counter (OTC) benefit. Click here for the formulary.

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