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Storing Medicine Safely

Image of medicine cabinet

If you're keeping your prescription and OTC medications, supplements and vitamins in your medicine cabinet …don't. If there's one place you shouldn't store your medication, it's the exact place where you probably are – the medicine cabinet in your bathroom.

Most medicine should be stored at room temperature, between 68 and 77 degrees, and kept away from moisture as it can make them less potent before their expiration date. This is especially true for tablets and capsules. For example, a warm, muggy environment can cause aspirin tablets to break down into vinegar and salicylic acid, which can irritate the stomach. In fact, salicylic acid is the active ingredient in facial chemical peels. So, you can imagine what it could do to your stomach if you ingest it.

Instead, keep medicines in a cool, dry, secure place out of a child's reach — perhaps in the kitchen, powder room, or linen closet. If the bathroom is your only option, keep the containers tightly closed. If you store medicines in a kitchen, keep them away from any hot appliances.

Medicine that is improperly stored usually becomes less effective and rarely can become toxic. Follow these tips to prevent danger:

  • Store drugs out of children's reach.
  • Keep medicines in their original container and tightly closed.
  • Cotton can draw moisture into the container, so remove the cotton plug immediately when you receive a new prescription.
  • When you take a drug, check the expiration and replace any medications that are expired.
  • Never use a medication that has changed color, texture, or odor, even if it has not expired.
  • Throw away capsules or tablets that look questionable — stick together, are harder or softer than normal or are cracked or chipped.
  • Ask your pharmacist about storage instructions.
  • Throw out unused medicine safely. Dispose of expired or unused medications during our School's RX Disposal Day, which is hosted twice yearly in the spring and fall at the Anschutz Medical Campus (I-225 and Colfax in Aurora, CO). Learn more.

If you are traveling, follow these tips for safely storing medications:

  • Before leaving home, list all your medications, as well as the name and number of your pharmacist and doctor. Download a medication tracking card or pick one up at our RX Disposal event or an area health fair where our students will be distributing the cards.
  • Pack your medicine in a carry-on bag
  • Bring an extra supply with you in case your trip encounters delays.
  • Heat can quickly destroy some drugs, so never leave medications in your car.