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Preparedness Facts of the Week
by Elizabeth Hall, Emergency Services Specialist - Kings County Public Health Department
Printable (PDF) of this article | Link to 2012 Photo Credits

Where do you keep your prescription medicines? Are they in different places-with some in the medicine cabinet, some in the kitchen, and some in the bedroom or elsewhere? As a parent, grandparent, or family member, it’s important that you organize and keep track of your medicines. After all, you will want to know where a particular medicine is when you or someone else needs to find it. And you will want to keep your medicines secure so that a child, a teenager, or even a stranger, does not get into them. That way, you can help prevent an accidental injury, as well as do your part to stop the possible abuse of prescription medicines.


Getting organized means clearing out the clutter. Too often, that clutter includes out-dated, unused or unwanted medications; both over-the-counter and prescriptions. The first step in getting organized is to take a look at all the medicines you have. You should try to do this type of inventory every six months, or at least once a year.

Start by checking the expiration date on the bottle-you don’t want to take any chances with a medicine that no longer works the way it’s supposed to. Some people believe that expired medicines just lose their potency and are no longer effective; wrong! They can make you very sick; possibly violently ill. Please don’t take expired medicines! Also, look for medicines that are discolored, dried out, crumbing, or show other signs that they are past their prime. Check the expiration date for eye drops and eardrops too! They may no longer be effective and, worse, could be breeding ground for bacteria or fungus.

Next, look for leftover prescription medicines from a previous illness or condition. You will want to discard these since you should never try to treat yourself (or anyone else) with a prescription medicine. Your symptoms might seem similar to what you had before, but the cause could be different or the medicine may not be the right one this time around.

Don't flush it! The old flush-it rule was to keep it out of the hands of people,
or even animals that may ingest it and get sick. Guess what? It didn't work. Flushing it has done exactly the opposite of its original intention.
That medication is now in the water supply!

Take your prescription drugs out of their original containers. By removing
unwanted, unused or expired medicine from its original container, you are
ensuring that medicine will not fall in the wrong hands. Orange prescription
bottles are easily recognizable and can be stolen from garbage cans and landfills.
  • If you have pills, crush them before you throw them out. Mix drugs with an undesirable substance, such as cat litter or used coffee grounds. This extra step can prevent accidental overdose by children and pets and also possible drug theft.
  • Put the mixture into a disposable container with a lid, such as an empty margarine tub, or into a sealable bag. Place the sealed container with the mixture, and empty drug containers in the trash.
  • Conceal or remove any personal information, including Rx number, on the empty containers by covering it with black permanent marker or duct tape, or by scratching it off.
  • Another alternative to proper disposal is to check with your local pharmacies and county Health Departments. Some have programs where they will take your expired prescriptions and dispose of them for you.
  • You will want to store your medicine in an area that is convenient, but is also cool and dry - since heat and humidity can damage medicines. That's why a bathroom is not a good place to keep your medicines unless you are able to keep the room well ventilated.
  • If there are children around, you might want to find an area where you can lock up your medicines. A cabinet or a drawer with a lock on it would work.
  • The theft and abuse of prescription medicines is a serious problem. You play a big role in keeping these powerful medicines out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them. Since it is dangerous, as well as illegal, for anyone but you to use a controlled substance prescribed for you, a locked storage area can help keep a stranger or someone else from gaining access to them.
National Prescription Drug
Take-Back Day
The Drug Enforcement
Administration has scheduled
National Prescription Drug
Take-Back Day

Saturday, April 28, 2012
from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Link to DEA Site Locator

DEA Web Site

Kings County Collection Day
April 28th

More Safety Tips

  • Storage
    Keep your medicines separate from those of your spouse or other family members (for example, on a different shelf or at least on a separate side of a shelf). This will make it less likely that you take the wrong ones by mistake.
  • Lighting
    Good lighting near where you store your medicines will help you make sure you are taking the right medicine. Never take medicines in the dark.
  • Container
    Keep the medicine in the bottle it came in. The amber color protects the medicine from light. You will also have the information right there including how often to take it. The label will also have the phone number of the pharmacy so you can call when it is time for a refill.
  • Don't Mix Medications
    Never mix different medicines in the same bottle - you might end up taking the wrong one by mistake. It is also possible that some of one medicine could rub off onto another and affect how well it works.
  • Remove Cotton
    If there is cotton in the pill bottle when you first open it, remove the cotton and throw it away. The cotton can absorb moisture and affect the medicine that is inside.
  • Ask Questions
    And as always, if you have any questions regarding your prescriptions, please consult your healthcare professional.

Microsoft Clip Art/Photos
Medicine (hands)
US Department of Justice
DEA Graphic

Link to 2012 Photo Credits

Do your part for safety awareness by passing this information along to anyone you can think of who would benefit.

Be Responsible - Be Ready - Be Prepared!

Teaming Up for Emergency Preparedness
Elizabeth Hall

Kings County Public Health Department

330 Campus Drive
Hanford, CA 93230
(559) 852-2634



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