A UVA Heart & Vascular Center Initiative

Spring Clean Your Medicine Cabinet

Posted April 04, 2017

Spring is here! For many of us it’s time to freshen up and de-clutter all of those nooks and crannies we overlook the rest of the year. Tackle the closets and fridge, but also be sure to include your bathroom cabinets on that spring to-do list.

Perhaps the most important thing to sort through: your medications. “Keeping leftover or expired drugs is a poisoning accident waiting to happen,” says Kristin Wenger, education coordinator for the Blue Ridge Poison Center. If fact, in 2015 nearly 57 percent of all poison exposure cases nationwide involved prescription or over-the-counter medicines. “Removing these products is the only way to guarantee they do not fall into the wrong hands,” adds Wenger.

Check expiration dates on over-the-counter medicines (expired products lose effectiveness) and discard any unused prescription drugs. Here are some tips from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on how to dispose of medicines safely:

  • Mix with something unpleasant, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter
  • Place in a sealed plastic bag or other container
  • Throw the container out with the household trash
  • Scratch out label information on prescription bottles before throwing away

Once your medications are squared away, follow these suggestions for sorting through the rest:

  • Toss products that weren’t closed or resealed properly. They could be altered and possibly even be dangerous to use.
  • Throw out last summer’s products that contain sunscreen. They expire, too, and lose their ability to protect your skin. If there’s no expiration date, get rid of products that are over a year old. Extreme heat – like in your bag at the pool on a 95-degree day – can affect the product’s protective ingredients.
  • The shelf life of most makeup products after opening is eight months or less. Mascara can harbor bacteria and should be replaced regularly. Toss it after two to four months. Old toothbrushes are also bacteria-prone and should be replaced regularly.
  • Review the expiration dates on any samples or travel-size products as well, and replace those that are old or expired.
  • Replace old shelf paper and scour the interior of your cabinet.

If someone in your home is accidentally exposed to the wrong medicines or the incorrect dose, call Blue Ridge Poison Center at 800.222.1222.


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