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Posted on 5. April 2012

Spring Clean Your Medicine Cabinet

By Trudie Mitschang

All I wanted was an aspirin. I imagine for most people, all this requires is a quick trip to the bathroom medicine cabinet. As I stood in front of mine, I could already envision the chaos waiting for me behind the closed mirrored door. Reaching past the tumble of congealed cough syrup, half-used antibiotics, loose Band-Aids and a borrowed tranquilizer prescription (that I thankfully never used), I finally found the buried bottle of aspirin. Shaking it expectantly, I opened the lid to confirm the obvious: empty.

Spring is here, and it's time to clear the clutter, and as my experience confirms, there's no better place to start than the medicine cabinet! If you are ready to purge those outdated prescriptions and make a fresh start, here are some helpful guidelines to get you started:

  • Start by taking everything out of the medicine cabinet. Use sanitizing wipes to scour the shelves.
  • Dispose of all expired, recalled and half-used medication. This seems obvious, but in reality, many of us hang onto old prescriptions "just in case." According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), most drugs can be thrown in the household trash, but consumers should take certain precautions before tossing them. One helpful tip is to take drugs out of their original bottle or container and mix them in coffee ground (to keep animals, children or anyone else from tampering with or consuming them). Put the mixture in a sealable bag before tossing it in the trash.
  • The FDA does not advise flushing prescription drugs down the toilet, unless the labeling specifically advises you to do so. Certain prescription pain medications, including oxycodone and Percocet are safe to flush.
  • A growing number of community-based "take-back" programs offer another safe disposal alternative. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) also sponsors National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days that allow consumers to safely turn in their unwanted medications. The next day is scheduled for Saturday, April 28, 2012. To find a site near you, visit the DEA's website.
  • Once you've finished purging, sort and group remaining items based on their purpose. For example, items used to treat wounds such as bandages, gauze and iodine would likely share a shelf, as would cough and cold medications and fever reducers.
  • After everything is organized and reshelved, it's time to restock. Make a list of items that should be kept on hand such as pain reliever/fever reducer; antibiotic ointment; hydrogen peroxide; anti-itch cream; cough medicine/throat lozenges; antacid; thermometer; and ice pack/heating pad.

Spring cleaning can be a daunting task, but I must admit starting with a small space like the medicine cabinet provided almost instant gratification and a much-needed sense of accomplishment. Next stop: the kitchen pantry!

Click here for FDA safe drug disposal tips.


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