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Should I clean my medicine cabinet?

A man studies medicine bottles in his cabinet

It tends to be one of the most neglected, but vital cabinets

A man studies medicine bottles in his cabinet

The weather’s warming up, the birds are chirping and you’ve started Marie Kondo-ing every room in your house; welcome to springtime in Australia.

But, before you start sorting through your sock drawer and Tupperware cabinet (RIP to the odd socks and Tupperware lids that are no more), begin your spring clean by heading to your medicine cabinet.

The trusty medicine cabinet tends to be one of the most neglected, but vital cabinets in the family home – it often includes potentially life-saving medication and equipment. So, here are some important things to regularly check.

1. Expiry dates

Go through all your medications, including supplements, oils and prescription medication and throw out anything that’s past its expiry date. Not only do some medications lose their effectiveness after their expiry date has lapsed, but they may even be toxic.

2. Prescriptions

You might not be aware that your unused prescriptions also have expiry dates. Depending on the type of medication your script is for, it will likely have an expiry date of either six or 12 months.

3. Unmarked medications

When it comes to unmarked medication (or medication that's been removed from its original packaging), don’t take any risks; it’s time to get rid of it. Make sure you keep your medication in its original container so that you can recognise it quickly and easily. Clearly marked labels help minimise the risk of taking a swig of Dettol when you’ve got a runny nose.

A senior woman studies the medicine in her cabinet

4. Location

Most people don’t realise that storing your medicine and first aid kit in the bathroom is actually not a great idea. Bathrooms can have drastic temperature and humidity changes (when you’re showering or bathing) and this can make your medication less effective. So, where should you keep it? Store it in an airtight container and keep it somewhere high up (away from little hands!) and dry like a linen closet.

5. The essentials

Making the effort to go through your medicine cabinet regularly means you’ll have a good opportunity to check that you’re all stocked up on the essentials. Although these ‘essentials’ will depend on your family and their medical history, a good starting point is with medication for pain relief, motion sickness, and allergies, then include some antiseptic, electrolyte replacements, a thermometer and an array of bandages and bandaids.

6. Disposal

Did you know that for environmental reasons it’s not recommended to simply throw old or unused medication in the bin or tip it down the sink? The Pharmacy Guild of Australia explains that the only safe way to get rid of your mediations is to drop it at your local pharmacy or chemist where they’ll dispose of them using special high-temperature sealed incinerators.

7. Devices

Now is also the perfect time to test out any medical devices or supplies like thermometers, blood glucose monitors and blood pressure cuffs to make sure they’re still working. With any important medical equipment that’s more than a few years old, it might be a good idea to update them. If you’re concerned, speak to your local pharmacist for advice.

Now you’ve tidied up your medicine cabinet, it might be a good idea to focus on your health. Check out our article 7 ways to spring clean your health for more.

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