Time to Spring Clean Your Medicine Cabinet

Local Doctor says opened and expired meds can make you sick

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    Eye drops, nasal sprays, inhalers and nebulizers. If you have springtime allergies, you may be using at least one of them. But if you used them last spring, they’re probably contaminated, so throw them out.

    “They are full of bugs that can cause infection,” said Dr. Jackie Eghrari-Sabet, of Family Allergy & Asthma Care in Gaithersburg, Md.

    Medicine Cabinet Spring Cleaning

    [DC] Medicine Cabinet Spring Cleaning
    Dr. Jackie Eghrari-Sabet of Family Allergy and Asthma Care has some advice about your meds from last allergy season. (Published Tuesday, Apr 20, 2010)

    Now is the perfect time to do a little spring cleaning of your medicine cabinet. Nasal sprays and eye drops are especially prone to developing germs over time and pose the greatest risk of infection after they’ve been opened, used and have sat in your cabinet for months, even if they haven’t expired.

    If you use an inhaler, you should follow the expiration date, but keep in mind that “they need maintenance,” said Dr. Jackie. “They can get clogged, just like a can of hair spray, and they also need to be primed,” she said, so they deliver the right dosage of medication.

    Medicines that come in foil packets spoil faster than their expiration dates after they’ve been opened, so once opened, they are good for even shorter periods of time.

    “The reason they are in foil packets is to protect them from sunlight and humidity,” said Dr. Jackie.

    Once that packet is torn open and the medication is exposed to sunlight, you should use it within five-to-seven days. If it’s exposed to humidity, you should use it within 30 days. Nebulizers, on the other hand, just need to be cleaned so they work properly. However, Dr. Jackie advises that nebulizers should be replaced every six months, and insurance companies will generally pay for this.

    Finally, Dr. Jackie said be careful not to mix different meds in the same bottle, which many people do for convenience. It may be convenient, but when all your meds are in one bottle, you don’t have immediate access to dosing instructions or information about contraindications and you could easily wind up taking meds that shouldn’t be taken together.