If you are double-checking that hurricane kit, it might be a good time to check the medications you have in it. Then, just go through your medicine cabinet in general.
The big thing to look for is the expiration date. While you may be able to use medications that are slightly expired, they might not be as effective.
Kevin Sneed is the Dean of the College of Pharmacy at the University of South Florida. He says the expiration dates are important.
"There may be a time where beyond the expiration date, they may become dangerous," Sneed said. "They may degrade into something that may be harmful to the body."
Sneed said it often happens in liquid medications like eye-drops because it's difficult to tell what ingredients might no longer be there or might have oxidized because of oxygen and moisture.
The biggest concern with most of your home medications is that they start to break down and may not work like they are supposed to. When it comes to your health, you need to decide whether it's worth it to spend $5, $10 or $15 bucks to replace an expired medicine just to be on the safe side -- especially if you put it in a hurricane kit and haven't looked at it in a few months.
Prescription medications are a bit different. Sneed says there are two expiration dates for those, the one on your bottle and the one the pharmacist sees on the actual packaging. In most cases, your prescription bottle will say it expires a year after you fill it. But there are some medications where that date is vital.
"Medications like insulin, eye drops, your epi-pen, the epinephrine injections. We really have to pay attention to the expiration date there because now we're talking about not only the loss of the medication's ability to work for you, but it could actually degrade into something that could be harmful," Sneed explained.
Also, Sneed wanted to emphasize the importance of storing these medications properly. Most medications need to be stored in a cool area, not exposed to sunlight, or in your car where it can get very hot. Also, you don't want the other extreme where medications like insulin freeze in a cold part of your refrigerator.
If you have any questions about medications expiration dates or how to store them properly, just ask your pharmacist. They can give you the best answer for your particular question.
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