Your Medicine Cabinet

[music] >> Lynn Holley: If you’re like most people,
the medicine cabinet in your bathroom ends up being the repository for everything you
use in that room – toothpaste and toothbrushes; make-up and moisturizers; bubble bath, and
all sorts of shaving equipment. In amongst these necessities are the over-the-counter
medications and maybe even some prescription drugs. It’s these medicines that are often
old and forgotten – until you need them. With cold and flu season upon us, what should
you have in your family medicine cabinet? And how should you monitor those meds you
buy with and without a prescription? We asked Sherry Torkos, a pharmacist and author of
The Canadian Encyclopedia Of Natural Medicine, and Saving Women’s Hearts. She looks at
medicine cabinets like a pharmacist, and says she’s found many are very unorganized and
unsafe. >> Sherry Torkos: When I look at peoples’
medicine cabinets I see a cluttered mess. A lot of the bottles not necessarily organized
well. In a lot of cases, people hang on to their expired medications. I’ve seen situations
where people have kept medications that are 10 years beyond expiry. >> Holley: So what should an organized and
efficient medicine cabinet look like? >> Torkos: Your medicine cabinet should be
organized and it should be up to date and you should make sure that your medicine cabinet
is not accessible to any young children. If there’s toddlers in the house it’s really
important that you have locks on the cabinet doors so that little ones can’t get in there.
It’s actually surprising the number of children that have managed to open safety caps on medications.
In terms of what the cabinet should look like, you should have a wide arrangement of remedies
available to treat common conditions that occur. For example, aches and pains, fever,
headaches, tummy aches, cold and flu symptoms, those are the types of things when you have
an issue and it’s coming on in the evening, you don’t want to run out to the pharmacy
to grab something. Its great if you have something right on hand that you can use. >> Holley: The environment of your bathroom
also plays a part in where you keep certain drugs. >> Torkos: Humidity can cause degradation
or breakdown of the product, so I would not recommend storing any drugs, over the counter
products, any vitamin supplements, in an environment that is warm and steamy. If your bathroom
has a fan and everybody uses the fan, that’s not such a problem. You may want to look either
to store it or have an alternative, a secondary bathroom that’s just a two piece bathroom
where there’s no shower or bathtub that would be an option. A hall closet, a bedroom
closet that’s up high, even a kitchen cabinet that is not close to a window or not near
another stove would be another option. >> Holley: Torkos says that you need to look
at your O-T-C drugs every so often for their expiration dates. These are generally listed
on the bottle with a lot number. But are pills that are just a few months past expiration
dangerous or ineffective? >> Torkos: Generally speaking there are products
that are good for a period of time. It’s hard to see any hard and fast rules beyond
the expiring date with the few exceptions. One exception would be Tetracycline, which
is a prescription and an antibiotic. It can degrade or break down into potentially harmful
compounds, so you should not take it. But in the case of most other drugs when they
are used beyond expiry the only problem would be that you may not get the full amount of
the product. For example, if you have acetaminophen 500 milligrams and you’re taking it a couple
years beyond the expiration date, you may not have that full 500 milligrams; you may
have a slightly lesser amount. But it’s not going to be toxic or problematic. >> Holley: Most of us who take the same O-T-C
meds year after year don’t bother to read the labels for drug interactions. However,
if you start taking a prescription drug, Torkos says that O-T-C meds can sometimes interact
with them. She says you should always inform your doctor and your pharmacist about the
meds and supplements you already have in your cabinet. >> Torkos: That’s something that I typically
do when I’m talking to a patient. When I take their prescription, or initial prescription
if they’re a new patient, I ask them if they are taking anything over the counter
— any vitamins or supplements, because those products can certainly interact with prescription
medications. What I would advise people is that if you’re getting a prescription filled
and the pharmacist does not ask you what other products you’re taking, then you should
offer up that information. Also if you’re getting prescriptions filled at other pharmacies,
it’s good to share that information so that everybody’s on the same page; everybody
knows exactly what you’re taking. >> Holley: These days, many Americans are
opting for fewer of the familiar pain drugs and replacing them with natural remedies.
Torkos says that there are pain relievers and anti-inflammatories that have few, if
any, side effects that are still effective for a number of conditions. >> Torkos: There’s been a lot of research
into natural treatments for joint health. We’ve seen pharmacies and health food stores
carry a lot of products like glucosamine and Chondroitin for joint health. But there are
newer products that offer some advantages. One would be BioCell Collagen and BioCell
Collagen is used for joint health. Another option that I would recommend is Curcumin.
Curcumin is from the turmeric plant and it has natural anti-inflammatory properties,
so it’s used for joint issues and it’s also used for even inflammatory bowel disease
and a whole lot of other conditions. >> Holley: Torkos says that products for coughs,
colds and flu can also be switched over to natural remedies. She says that these are
safe and effective, especially for children under six years of age. >> Torkos: I would suggest having some vitamin
C available if your feeling run down, you’re feeling on the verge of getting sick. Vitamin
C is a very important anti-oxidant for the immune system, and it may help to shorten
the duration or severity of symptoms. There are regular tablets and chewables, there are
also effervescent powders, such as Emergen-C, which is a little sachet that you put into
water. And children can take vitamin C as well. It’s safe for younger kids and same
with zinc lozenges. >> Holley: A remedy your grandmother might
have used is ginger. Torkos says that real ginger ale or ginger capsules can help ease
a queasy stomach. Melatonin is a natural remedy that’s become popular for sleep problems
and for people on shift work who find it difficult to get to sleep at odd hours. One more word
of advice. Torkos says that if you have just a few O-T-C pills left in a bottle, don’t
be tempted to mix them in with the new bottle you just bought. >> Torkos: The reason for that is if there
is ever a drug recall the manufacturers always release the lot and expiry date for the product
and that’s on the bottle. If you’re mixing a couple of different products together then
you won’t know what products were affected by the recall. I think it’s good to keep
them in the original bottle. That way you know what the lot and expiry date is in the
event that something happens. >> Holley: Torkos adds that your pharmacist
is a good resource for questions about any drug prescriptions and O-T-C. She says pharmacists
have databases they use that can indicate drug interactions, expirations and safe use
of drugs for children. For more information on Sherry Torkos, you can log onto her website
at or through a link on our website, Our writer-producer
this week is Pat Reuter. Our production directors are Sean Waldron and Nick Hofstra. I’m Lynn
Holley. [music] [commercials]

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