As you get older it may become necessary to take multiple medications, including prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, as well as vitamins and supplements.
Your medicine cabinet, kitchen or bathroom drawers — even your fridge — can quickly become a chaotic hodgepodge of bottles, tubes and jars with tiny print. Add to this the multitude of other household products that fill your home and life, and the chance of accidental poisoning rises.
It’s important for you and your family to take preventive measures to avoid toxic interactions — particularly if there are grandchildren around.
First, make sure the Poison Help Line is programmed into your home phone, your cell phone and written down in large print close to your home phone. Call the 24-hour number (800-222-1222) for information and home treatments if you think someone has been poisoned.
Next, follow these tips from the National Institutes of Health for storing medications and other potentially toxic substances.
• Safely discard any medication past its expiration date (do not dispose of it in the toilet, as it will then enter the water supply).
• Store medications in their original, labeled containers and out of the reach of children.
• Keep stored medications away from moisture and heat — do not keep them in the bathroom, near water or steam, or near the stove or sink. Put them in a cool, dry place, such as a drawer.
• Remove cotton balls from medicine bottles. They pull in moisture.
• Ask your pharmacist about special storage conditions and save printed information to refer to later.
If you notice that your medication has changed color or texture, or if pills are sticking together, the medication is damaged and you should not take it. It could make you sick or it may not be as effective as you need it to be. Be sure all members of your healthcare team are aware of every medication, vitamin or OTC product you are taking so they can alert you to potential dangerous interactions.
Likewise, be aware that some home products, especially cleaners and laundry detergent pods, can be extremely toxic and should be kept safely stored out of the reach of children and pets, and away from food. When using cleaning products, be sure to open a window or turn on a fan to avoid breathing in fumes that can be dangerous. Never mix cleaning products with one another.
Other household products that should be stored carefully include mothballs, pesticides, ammonia, bug spray, nail polish and nail polish remover, aftershave and carpet cleaners. Even perfumes and air fresheners, which may smell appealing, can be potentially harmful.
Finally, never heat your home by turning on gas burners or the stove, and be sure your home has a working carbon monoxide detector.