Most people will notice expiration dates on their prescription medication, but do you pay attention to the warning to store them at ambient temperature? Now that we are entering peak summer temperatures in Brazil, here are some hints to help keep your medication safe.
1- What is the best temperature to store your medication?
Each medication has its own tolerance range (found on the label), but the best storage temperature for most medications is the 20-24ºC (68-75ºF) range.
2- Are medications dangerous to take if they are exposed to higher temperatures?
Usually the only danger is that they can lose potency, and they just won’t work as well. Some medications are especially sensitive. For example, lorazepam (for anxiety) will lose 75% of its potency if it spends much time above 35ºC (95ºF). Insulin, thyroid pills, nitroglycerine (for anginal heart pains) and epinephrine (to combat severe allergic reactions) are also especially heat-sensitive.The pills might look ok even if they have been heat-damaged, and you might not realize what the problem is if you don’t feel as well… because your medication has lost some potency.
3- What about mail-order medication?
It can be a problem especially in the summer. It may be worthwhile to pay for express delivery and be available to receive them personally.
4- I store medication in my bathroom. Is that a problem?
Yes it could be. Bathrooms are high-humidity zones and that can degrade potency. Find a place in the house that is the coolest, and away from humidity and light. Avoid keeping them around warm appliances such as refrigerators and dishwashers.
5- What about when flying?
Don’t put your medication in checked luggage, carry it on the airplane with you. Besides the risk of lost luggage, temperatures in the cargo area often go out of the recommended range.
6- What about in the car?
Temperatures rise very high inside a locked car, so never keep medications in the trunk, and if you leave the car, carry any medications with you.
7- What’s worse: extreme heat or cold?
Heat is typically degrades medications more than excess cold.
8- Can I tell by looking at pills that they have gone bad?
If you see a change in the pills such as they are all stuck together, they have changed shape, or the coating is sticky or runny, it is likely that they have lost potency but the opposite is not true. Medications can look fine on the outside and still might have compromised by excessive temperatures.
9- What if I am not sure if my medication has been damaged or not?
Ask your pharmacist particularly if it’s medication for a serious condition. If you are particularly concerned about your critical medications, you might ask your pharmacist what measures they take in the store if they lose power for extended periods.
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