How to Keep Your Medicine Safe

Don’t let the name fool you: The medicine cabinet is a great place to store toothpaste and moisturizer—but not medicine.

Don’t let the name fool you: The medicine cabinet is a great place to store toothpaste and moisturizer—but not medicine. Medications are formulated to be stored at room temperature in a dry place. Most bathrooms are warm and damp, which can cause some drugs to break down and lose potency. In most homes, the bedroom is a better choice.

Always check the expiration date on the label before you take any drug or supplement, and throw away any that are outdated. But keep in mind that the expiration date represents the manufacturer’s estimate of how long it will maintain its potency under ideal circumstances—that is, stored in the original container at room temperature in a dry place. No matter what the expiration date is, toss the medicine if:

  • Its color has changed.
  • Its texture or consistency has changed (tablets starting to crumble or crystallize, for example).
  • It has a strong odor (for instance, outdated aspirin that smells like vinegar).
  • Any other change in appearance has occurred (such as a liquid developing floating particles).

If you take medicine and discover later that it had expired, don’t panic. Outdated medicine is unlikely to make you sick unless it’s long past its expiration date, and even then, you probably won’t have problems.

Plus: The Killers in Your Medicine Cabinet

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest