Living in the desert climate of Phoenix, a lot of folks around here start talking about spring before the holiday decorations have been taken down because, let’s face it, it’s hardly wintery weather here anymore. It’s 80 degrees today for goodness sake! And with tidings of resolutions and joy for the New Year, I’ve resolved to make things a little healthier in our house. For moms, many experts say the best place to start is with the medicine cabinet. After taking glancing at mine, I quickly realized this is one resolution I absolutely need to stick to.
Out With The Old
Medical professionals say your medicine cabinet is not meant to be a storage area for all the medication your child has ever been prescribed and for whatever reason, parents often leave leftover or half-used bottles in their cabinets because they may “need” them one day (um…guilty). The truth is, according to AmericanMedical-ID.com, the shelf-life of many medicines is short and keeping expired medication around can actually be quite deadly, especially if the particular drug turns toxic, like tetracycline, after it has expired.
- Anything that has expired. This includes sunscreen, over-the-counter meds and of course, leftover antibiotics.
- Medicine that has changed color, smell or taste.
- In addition to tossing expired medications, scan your cabinets to make sure your kids are safe from outdated or old advice from a generation or two ago. This involves getting rid of items we’ve traditionally treated our kids with that are no longer deemed safe (or necessary).
- Syrup of Ipecac – The American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends that parents keep this in their homes.
- Mercury thermometers – If one breaks, leaking mercury and it’s vapors can be very harmful to your children.
- Hydrogen Peroxide – This one surprised me because my mom used it to clean the countless scrapes and scabs I got as a child. In fact, right now, a bottle of it is sitting in my own medicine cabinet. Turns out, many experts believe hydrogen peroxide isn’t any more helpful than regular old soap and water in cleaning a simple wound, and that hydrogen peroxide may actually damage healthy skin cells.
- Baby aspirin – This, of course, applies to your kids’ medicine cabinet. Due to the risk of Reye Syndrome, kids, and even teenagers, should not be given aspirin.
In with the New
Experts say we should regularly restock our cabinets frequently with:
- Over-the-counter medicine supply including a pain and fever reducer (like Tylenol or Motrin)
- An antihistamine (like Benadryl)
- First aid supplies like bandages
- Cough and cold medicines (if it is age appropriate and recommended by your pediatrician)
- Clean medicine measuring dispensers (spoons, syringes or cups)
In 2008, the FDA warned parents against giving children under two popular over-the-counter cough and cold medicine because of the possibility of it causing serious harm of death. While the FDA is still considering changing the guidelines to apply to children ages 2-11, I’m not waiting around and taking any chances.
Here are a few natural options parents can put in their medicine cabinet before the next cold strikes:
- Honey – Honey has been proven to help soothe a cough and can be given to children over the age of two. Check with your pediatrician for the correct dosage.
- Saline Nasal Drops – Saline drops can help ease congestion and clean out stuffed-up noses.
- Cool-Mist Humidifier – Running a cool mist humidifier in your child’s room will add moister to the air, helping him breathe easier
Should you throw old and expired meds in the trash or flush them down the toilet? No way! Kids can root through trash cans to find colorful “candy” to play with (or eat) and flushing meds can end up in your water supply. In fact, recent studies have shown traces of everything from Aspirin to Zoloft in streams across the U.S.
Instead, ask your pharmacist or local hazardous waste disposal site about safe disposal options. Another option is to mail them to your state’s Drug Enforcement Agency.
General Rules of Thumb
Toss expired meds, even if they are unopened.
Get rid of leftover prescription drugs.
Research how to safely dispose of drugs in your area.