5 Tips and Tricks for Proper Medication Storage
When you pick up a prescription from your local pharmacy, you likely think about when you should take it and why you should take it — but do you think about where you should store it?
Medication storage is an important, but overlooked, part of taking both over-the-counter and prescription medications. Medications are sensitive to outside elements and susceptible to damage, making it all the more important to protect them.
That’s why, after you take your medications, you should take the time to think about how to store them. Doing so will ensure your medications are safe and effective for their full shelf lives.
Read on for five tips and tricks to maintain proper medication storage:
Rule number one in medication storage: keep them in a cool, dry place.
Excessive heat can break down active ingredients in medications, making them less effective or even harmful to use.
You should aim for a storage area where the temperature remains relatively constant (and where direct sunlight exposure is low), avoiding areas like the kitchen or spots near household appliances.
Equally important is maintaining a dry storage space. Humidity can compromise the stability of medications, particularly tablets and capsules whose structure depends on staying dry.
Bathrooms, despite being a common location for medicine cabinets, are often humid due to showers and baths. As such, you should avoid storing medications there.
Good places to store medications instead include cabinets in your bedroom, your closet, or your office space.
Most, if not all, medications contain labels with specific storage instructions and expiration dates. Read the labels carefully to get both pieces of information.
Each medication is unique, and the conditions under which it should be stored vary. Some medications may require refrigeration, while others need to stay at room temperature.
Equally important is the expiration date. The expiration date isn’t just a suggestion — it indicates how long a medication is safe and effective. Beyond this date, the chemical composition of the medication may undergo changes, which may make it less potent or even harmful.
You should only take your medications within their potency window, and when they expire, dispose of them safely.
Many pharmacies offer drug takeback programs for unused or expired medications to prevent environmental contamination and accidental ingestion.
Use our Pharmacy Finder to find participating pharmacies in your area.
If you have children at home, make sure you keep your medications out of their reach. Children are naturally curious and often explore their surroundings, so they run the risk of coming into contact with meds.
To prevent exposure, consider designating high shelves, cabinets, or storage areas for your medications. If you choose to use a medicine cabinet, add an extra layer of protection with a lock.
Use childproof containers and safety caps on your medications. When you request your medications from the pharmacy, you can specifically request childproof caps.
Beyond the physical safeguards, educate children about the potential dangers of ingesting medications that aren’t prescribed to them.
However, despite any precautions you put in place, accidents can still happen.
The packaging on your medication isn’t just a pretty cover — it's a vital source of information.
As previously mentioned, the label provides important information about dosage as well as potential side effects. In addition, the packaging serves as a shield against potential threats like light and moisture.
Even if you feel tempted to switch your medications to a different package, you should stick to the original packaging. It’s a simple but effective way to manage your medications.
If you find that it’s difficult to use a certain kind of packaging — like blister cards or childproof pill bottles — talk to your pharmacist.
They can discuss alternative forms of packaging with you, which may be easier to use.
Medication storage isn’t only important when you’re at home. When you travel, you should take the necessary measures to make sure your medication is properly stored.
As mentioned above, opt to carry your medications in their original packaging. If you’re traveling by plane, keep your medications in a carry-on bag to keep them out of the elements.
Carry a medication list in the event you lose, need to replace, or are asked about your medications in security checks.
Finally, plan for time zone changes and unexpected delays — which may affect when you take your medications and how you should store them.
Taking these few steps before you travel ensures that your medication regimen works for you, no matter where in the world you may be.
Informed medication storage is an important part of your health journey.
From keeping medications in their packaging to safeguarding against children to navigating travel challenges, these five tips and tricks can help you stay on top of your medication regimen.
Remember, your pharmacist is a great resource for any questions or concerns you may have surrounding medication storage.
With your pharmacist’s help and the right practices in place, you can make sure your medications work as well as possible for as long as possible.