Over-the-Counter Medicines: Shelf Life and Storage

Health problems, mild or severe, can occur without you knowing. One day, you may be feeling healthy and limitless, yet the next, you may be down with the flu. While flu, or even a headache, diarrhea, sore eyes, or mouth ulcers are ailments that can go away within a day or a week, treating them will not be as easy without over-the-counter drugs (OTCs).

OTC drugs are those that most households keep in their medicine cabinets and are ready to go for when family members’ immune systems stumble. These medicines can be bought at your local pharmacies without a doctor’s prescription and are guaranteed safe and effective as long as you follow the instructions labeled on its packaging or as directed by your healthcare provider.

One of the most important instructions that your healthcare provider will advise you is to take your medicine on time and with the right dose. Without adherence, you or your loved one consuming the medication may suffer from light to serious side effects depending on how non-compliant one is, despite the OTC drug being safe and effective.

These side effects include dizziness, trouble sleeping, tiredness, headaches, worsening conditions or symptoms, and unrestored health, which may lead to hospitalization. Medication non-compliance among older adults may even subject them to long term care. The same consequences may happen for medicines that are taken after their prescribed date.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), expired medications do not guarantee safety and effectiveness. They can, instead, be dangerous due to the chemical changes in their composition as well as the decreased strength or efficacy. Rather than, for example, antibiotics effectively treating infections, the diminished potency may fail the treatment and lead to worse illnesses and antibiotic resistance. Some medications can even be at risk of bacterial growth.

However, according to studies about the government’s medicine stockpile, properly stored medical supplies can be used beyond their labeled expiration date. It comes with a condition though: it can be used only if it retains its stability.

Nonetheless, considering the previously mentioned undesirable outcomes, Cavalier Pharmacare recommends keeping the items in your medicine cabinets up to date and effective by tracking the recommended period and way of storage.

Expiration dates are proposed by the drug manufacturers during their approval application to FDA. These are the dates, together with the storage conditions, that decide how long the drugs are effective throughout their shelf-life.

Generally, OTC drugs have a shelf life of four to five years after manufacture, but this can specifically differ depending on the manufacturers. Antibiotics are usually labeled for two to three years; allergy medicines like Claritin for up to two and a half years; and painkillers such as Ibuprofen and acetaminophen within four to five years.

Additionally, aspirin is effective within five years, while cough syrups and eye drops must be stored in the refrigerator and are best before the expiration date. We also recommend using nasal sprays based on their instructions and before they expire for effective results.

Keeping your medical supplies in their proper storage is also one of the definite ways to keep them effective and safe to use even after a long period. Make sure to consider these factors that will affect your medicines.

  • Temperature

    Medications are sensitive to heat, air, light, and moisture. These can damage your supplies, make them less potent, or change the molecular form and the active chemicals present in your OTC drugs.

  • Storage Area

    You should never store them near your kitchen where the stove, sink, and other hot appliances are nearby. Avoid placing your medicine cabinet right into the bathroom, too, as the heat and moisture can affect the medicines inside it.

  • Container

    Your pills and capsules are best kept in their original containers or packaging. This makes them protected from heat, moisture, light, and air that may, as aforementioned, damage them. Exposure to such elements can affect the stability and safety of the medicines.

  • Labels

    Always read the instructions plastered on the packaging of your medicines. Take this practice as a prerequisite when dealing with health-related products. Check the label before and after using your medicine including its instructions, important reminders, do’s and don’ts, precautions, as well as warnings and possible adverse reactions and what steps to take when things do not go right.

  • Dates

    While some experts say that some medications can be taken even after they are claimed to have expired and best-before dates are extendable, prevention is always better than cure, as many would say. Pay attention to expired medicines and ask yourself: What will I lose if I decide to toss them away? What will I gain if I keep and consume them? But most importantly, ask yourself about how you stored them. Your storage practices will usually help you determine the best decision to take.

As your trusted pharmacy in Virginia, we offer pharmaceutical services such as long-term care, medication on time, cost-effective generic programs, and a variety of medical supplies and drugs. We aim to meet all your needs, thus, our client-focused approach to our services.

Besides being a responsive retail pharmacy, we also provide valuable health education to our clients and offer free delivery services to help them maintain or improve their wellness without the hassle of going out and buying products personally.

Cavalier Pharmacare offers these and more to your advantage. We promise competent pharmaceutical solutions and friendly pharmacists to consistently help you out. If you are interested in our services, please feel free to call 276-666-6644 at your convenience.

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