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Do you have a medicine cabinet in your bathroom? Growing up, I did. I kept all kinds of things in it – my toothbrush, toothpaste, Vaseline, scented lotion that I “borrowed” from my mom…
Lots of people also store medications in medicine cabinets for blatantly obvious reasons.
If you are one of these people or if you know one of these people, I urge you to keep reading!
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unfortunately, we have been misled.
As I mentioned is last week’s post on whether it’s safe to take expired medications, your bathroom medicine cabinet is actually the worst possible place in your home to store medicine.
I know, I know what you’re thinking: Why is it called the medicine cabinet if it’s not for medicine???
Allow me to explain.
On most medications, the instructions are to store the medication somewhere cool (around room temperature) and dry.
Would you describe your bathroom as cool and dry? Most likely it’s warm-to-hot and steamy. The heat and moisture from your sink and shower seep into those medicine cabinets and make for a warm, moist environment.
The exact opposite of cool and dry.
The type of place where you would not want your medicines to live.
What happens if medicines aren’t kept cool and dry?
What’s the big deal, you ask?
As you know, drugs are chemicals. If you recall from chemistry lab or throwback episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy (Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!), chemicals react under different conditions, like heat and moisture.
Take aspirin for example. In the presence of water or moisture, aspirin becomes vinegar and salicylic acid, a strong chemical used to treat acne and remove warts. I can’t be sure, but if you’re grabbing an aspirin I highly doubt you’re looking to remove warts.
Ever noticed that aspirin (and many other meds) comes with a wad of cotton in the bottle? The cotton pulls in water and moisture (which is why you should take that cotton ball out, by the way). You don’t want the medicine to come into contact with moisture because it can cause the drug to break down.
Here’s another point to consider:
Many capsules are made from gelatin. Gelatin is made from eggs. Heat + eggs = ____. Right. Now, clearly your capsules aren’t going to scramble or poach. The point is that in moist or hot conditions, drugs can break down. As a result, they may not work as well anymore or may be unsafe.
Then where should I keep my medicines?
Ultimately, you have to decide what storage location makes the most sense for you. You want to make sure the location meets these 3 criteria:
- Away from kids and pets (Safety first!)
- Cool and dry
- Somewhere you’ll remember to take them
Depending on your kitchen layout, a high kitchen cabinet may be an option. You don’t want to store your meds near the oven, stove, microwave, or sink. That’s no better than the bathroom medicine cabinet.
(Speaking of the kitchen, do not refrigerate your meds unless the directions say so or your doctor or pharmacist tells you to.)
One good thing about the kitchen is that many people start their day and eat meals there. If you have medications that you take in the morning or with meals, keeping them in the kitchen may help you remember to take them.
We can make a similar case for the bedroom. If you take meds when you wake up or just before bed, this may be a good location. Just be sure to store them high enough where children and pets can’t reach, such as in a storage box in the top of your closet or in a high dresser drawer.
If you work outside the home or are on the move throughout the day and need to have your medicine with you, you could probably benefit from a pill box. These pill boxes are excellent ways to keep your meds organized without taking up too much space. Just please don’t leave it in a hot car!
Bathrooms are the worst place you could possibly keep your medicines – aside from, perhaps, a glove compartment on a July day in Arizona. They are humid, hot, and subject to snooping from nosy house guests :).
Find a place outside the reach of children or pets that is cool and dry and reminds you to take your meds.
Where’s your favorite place to keep your medicines?