Vail Daily column: Keep your medicine cabinet safe
March 10, 2014
Recently, we have had to go through the medicine cabinets of a few of our clients. We have had caregivers inform our office that adolescents been seen searching through grandma's medicine cabinet and others have been seen giving grandma leftover antibiotics.
This has caused our office to address the medicine cabinets of all our clients. I was quite surprised by how many people had medications that were expired. Therefore, I will share some information related to medicine.
While most people place their medications in the medicine cabinet, I recently learned that this is not the best place to store medicines. Bathrooms have a tendency to get hot and damp, and the humidity often causes the medication to break down. If you must store your medicine in the bathroom, follow these tips:
• Keep medications off of the counter and out of the reach of children and pets.
• Make sure your bathroom is ventilated.
• Always check the expiration date on medications. This includes over-the-counter medicine and herbal products.
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• Don't forget that eye drops expire. They harbor bacteria after the expiration date and may lose potency or become toxic
In 1995, the U.S. government's Centers for Disease Control launched a national campaign to raise awareness of unnecessary use of antibiotics. Since that time, this campaign which occurs in November, has morphed into global awareness collaboration with the CDC, state based antibiotic campaigns, nonprofits, and for-profit partners focusing on the appropriate use of antibiotics.
The campaigns aims are (according to the Tufts University Medical Department) to:
• Promote adherence to appropriate prescribing guidelines among providers.
• Decreasing demand for antibiotics for viral upper respiratory infections among healthy adults and parents of young children.
• Increasing adherence to prescribed antibiotics for upper respiratory infections.
The Oregon AWARE program (Alliance Working for Antibiotic Resistance Education, http://www.healthoregon.org/antibiotics), has written some points of interest that should resonant in all of us.
Two kinds of "bugs" can cause illness: bacteria and viruses. Antibiotics kill bacteria. Illnesses caused by bacteria, such as strep throat, can be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics have no effect against illnesses caused by viruses, such as colds and the flu. Taking antibiotics when they're not needed helps resistant bacteria grow. When bacteria become resistant, the antibiotics that once combated them are no longer effective. These resistant bacteria can stay in your body or spread to other people. They can cause severe illnesses that are difficult and expensive to treat. Highly resistant bacteria (superbugs) sometimes cause infections that can't be cured. Using antibiotics wisely will help slow the spread of resistant bacteria. This will help keep our life-saving antibiotics effective for years to come.
The Oregon AWARE program made suggestions to help protect against resistant bacteria:
• Never take antibiotics to treat viral illnesses like colds or the flu. Antibiotics have no effect against viruses.
• When you are prescribed an antibiotic, take every dose, even if your symptoms go away. Taking part only treats part of the infection.
• Never share antibiotics. These strong medications can cause serious side effects. They should only be used under a doctor's care.
• Wash your hands well and often. This is the best way to prevent sickness.
Have you looked at your medicine cabinet to see how many unused medications are sitting in there? That might be a good place to begin disposing (properly) of unused medications, such as left over antibiotics.
Please take every opportunity to educate yourself and your loved ones. Someone's health might just be in your hands!
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.