One of my preparedness tasks for last weekend was to dispose of all the expired medication in the house. This took a bit longer than just going through the medicine cabinet because in my household, we also keep small amounts of over-the-counter (OTC) medication in our personal and vehicular emergency kits.
I prefer to stock my kits with single-dose packets of commonly used medications. I prefer these to bottles or packages because I don’t have to worry about figuring out an adult dosage on the fly, and because I can give a single sealed packet to someone else without raising concerns of tampering or substitution. Also, if one packet is damaged or opened, I only have to discard that dose, not an entire bottle.
In my kits, the packets go inside small zip-top bags to keep things neat and organized (as shown to the right). In each bag, I also include a printed slip containing the inventory list for that kit and the expiration date of each type of medication. If a particular medication is a generic type with an unfamiliar trade name, I also note its general use or its brand-name equivalent so anyone who uses my kit can quickly identify what they need.
Finally, once I’ve finished resetting all my kits, I set a calendar alert for several months before the first expiration date. This helps me remember to buy fresh OTC medication before things start to expire. For kits that are kept in cars – where summer temperature extremes can hasten the breakdown of active ingredients – I set a more aggressive replacement schedule.
This is just one way of handling OTC medications for emergencies, and I’ll admit that keeping up with it is one more task in an already-busy schedule. Work through your household’s medical needs to determine the system that’s right for you.
As always, make sure to keep all medication – whether prescription or OTC – out of the reach of children and pets.
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