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Keeping track of your meds

Apart from, “What time you closing again?”, the most common question or concern from callers to the pharmacy is, “What dis medicine for again? Yeah a blue tablet…”.

This is dangerous and it is important that you at least try to organise and keep track of your medicines.

After all, you will want to know where a particular medicine is when you or someone else needs to find it. And you will want to keep your prescribed medicines secure so that a child, or a teenager, or even a stranger, does not get at them. That way, you can help prevent an accidental injury, as well as do your part to stop the possible abuse of prescription medicines.

One of the best ways to ensure that your finished medicines do not get into the wrong hands, is obviously to complete the dose as prescribed, but for those who for whatever reason have medicine left over, we will look at the best ways to dispose of them or secure them for later disposal.

Start by checking the expiration date on the bottle (especially those cough mixtures) you do not want to take any chances with a medicine that no longer works the way it is supposed to. Also, look for medicines that are discoloured, dried out, crumbling, or show other signs that they are past their prime.

Check the expiration date for eye drops and ear drops, too. They may no longer be effective and, worse, could be a breeding ground for bacteria or fungus. Also chronic use eye drops should be shaken regularly and sometimes made to stand upside down (in their box obviously). This prevents the liquid from drying out in our climate.

In addition, gather all of those left over prescription medicines from a previous illness or condition. You will want to discard these since you should never try to treat yourself (or anyone else) with a prescription medicine.

our symptoms might seem similar to what you had before, but the cause could be different or the medicine may not be the right one this time around. If in doubt about what to retain please call your pharmacy for advice.

Proper Disposal of Prescription Medicines

Always take unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs out of their original containers and throw them in the trash. It would be proper to crush them if possible before binning them. Mixing prescription drugs with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or cat litter, and putting them in impermeable, non-descript containers, such as empty cans or sealable bags; will further ensure the drugs are not diverted.

Flush prescription medications down the toilet only if the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs doing so. Cancer medicines are a no-no in this regard, as they may affect our water supply.

Take advantage of community pharmaceutical take-back programmes or just return them to your pharmacy for proper disposal.

When you have identified the medicines that can be kept, the next step is to find a safe place to keep them.

You’ll want to store your medicine in an area that is convenient, but is also cool and dry – since heat and humidity can damage medicines.

That is why a bathroom is not a good place to keep your medicines unless you are able to keep the room well ventilated. (However, the bathroom medicine chest is an ideal place to keep items such as bandages, tweezers, gauze, cotton balls, scissors, and other products that are not affected by heat or humidity.)

If there are children around, you might want to find an area where you can lock up your medicines. A cabinet or a drawer with a lock on it would work. It is also an excellent idea to lock up any controlled substances that have been prescribed for you. These include medicines such as Valium, panadeine, pethidine, and alprazolam (Xanax).

The theft and abuse of prescription medicines can be a potentially a serious problem. You play a big role in keeping these powerful medicines out of the hands of those who should not have them. Since it is dangerous, as well as illegal, for anyone but you to use a controlled substance prescribed for you, a locked storage area can help keep a stranger or someone gaining access to them.

Here are some other suggestions that can help you be smarter about storing and using your medicines.

* Keep your medicines separate from those of your spouse or other family members (for instance, on a different shelf or at least on a separate side of a shelf). This will make it less likely that you take the wrong ones by mistake.

* You may find it helpful to have a counter top or tabletop near where you keep your medicine so you can open the bottle with it resting on the flat surface. In case you drop your pill, it will land on the tabletop and not be lost down the drain or on the floor. (But be sure not to leave your medicine bottles out on the counter afterwards.)

* Good lighting near where you store your medicines will help you make sure you are taking the right medicine. Never take medicines in the dark. If you wear reading glasses, use them when taking your medicines.

* Keep the medicine in the bottle it came in. The amber colour protects the medicine from light. You will also have the information right there about what the medicine is and how often to take it. The label will also have the phone number of the pharmacy so you can call when it is time for a refill. Always return with the empty container when refilling. This prevents error during the refilling process

* Never mix different medicines in the same bottle. You might end up taking the wrong one by mistake. It is also possible that some of one medicine could rub off on another and affect how well it works. Again this will apply for medicines in plastic bottles.

* Keep the lids on your pill bottles tightly closed. A cap cannot be childproof if it is not fastened correctly.

* If there is cotton in the pill bottle when you first open it, remove the cotton and throw it away. The cotton can absorb moisture and affect the medicine that is inside.

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