Dangers of Using Expired Medication

Medications are safe until their expiration date. After this time, they can deteriorate and do not work or can be harmful. Medicine (over-the-counter and prescribed) can become poisonous when it ages and result in death. If not stored properly, medications can expire before the expiration date. When air, humidity, heat, or sunlight makes contact with medications, they can be altered regardless of expiration date.

Proper Storage

When choosing storage areas remember the conditions that can change medications and store them in cool, dry, and dark places. It is idea to have the temperature be between 59 and 80 degrees. This does not describe the bathroom shelves or kitchen cupboards. In fact, those places are thought to be the last areas to store your medication. Those locations can have heat, humidity, and sunlight. Medications will decompose and lose potency under such conditions. The refrigerator, hall closet, or dresser drawer, are recommended as safe storage areas. Make sure to place medications where children cannot find them. It is a good idea to lock them in a cabinet to prevent child access. Expired medicine is a leading cause of accidental poisoning in children.


Expired medicine should be properly disposed of without letting children and pets locate it. It is customary for medications to be flushed down a drain or toilet, but this can contaminate groundwater supplies. Throwing expired medicine in a garbage can (even after taping and double bagging) be harmful to soil. Alternative methods of medicine disposal include giving them to pharmacies or a hazardous waste collection program.

Medicine storage areas need to be cleaned out every six months to a year. Dispose of anything past its expiration date, leaking, or damaged. It is helpful to date all over-the-counter and prescription medications when you buy them if they do not have a printed expiration date. Always keep your medicine in its original container as this was meant to keep it safe and this will make it easier to know if medicine has expired.

Expired medicine consists of both over-the-counter and medicine that has been prescribed by a doctor. This includes birth control pills, condoms and other contraceptives, fever reducers and pain relievers, hydrocortisone, antacids, allergy medicines, antibiotic and antiseptic ointments, cough, cold, and flu medicines, plus sleeping aids. You need to clean out everything in your storage area.

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