Here’s something you may not give a second thought: “Climate control” for your medications. Those little pills (or liquids) may appear untouched by the environment. But they’re not. Extreme heat or cold can make a big difference in how well your medications work.1 Proper storage is key. Here are a few things you should know.
When you receive a medication, check to see if there are specific instructions about storage. Know which need refrigeration, if any. If none do, follow these general guidelines. Store medications:
- In their original container
- At room temperature (59°F to 86°F)
- Away from moisture
- Protected from light1
At home. At home, a good storage spot might be a locked dresser drawer or kitchen shelf—not in a bathroom medicine cabinet, next to the stove, or on a countertop where the sun comes streaming in. Both bathrooms and kitchens not only get hot at times, but can also be very high in humidity.2
Keep all medications in the same place, except for those that need refrigeration. Be sure that your fridge’s temperature setting isn’t too high. That can put medication at risk of freezing. Insulin is an example of a drug that needs cooler temperatures. Keep unopened insulin vials, cartridges, and prefilled pens in the fridge at a temperature between 36°F to 46°F. Once punctured, however, most types of insulin can be stored in the fridge or at room temperature.1 Ask, if you have questions about yours.
When traveling. What if you are traveling during the “dog days of summer”? Don’t be leaving your medications in the glove compartment or trunk of your car while off scouting the Grand Canyon! Temperatures can skyrocket in a closed car.
In fact, don’t even leave them in the trunk while driving—keep them inside the car, where you can control the temperature. One British study found that trunk temperatures can go as high as 81.5°F to 110.3°F during a heat wave.3
For medications that need to be refrigerated, use a refrigerator (or freezer gel pack for longer periods), cooler, or fridge throughout your whole trip.
When flying, avoid packing away your medication in checked luggage. Baggage compartments can also undergo extremes of temperature. Instead, keep your medications in your carry-on luggage in their original, labeled containers. Don’t be alarmed if airport security asks to inspect your medication.
Just remember this: extreme environmental changes can affect your drug’s potency. And, depending upon your condition and your type of medication, that can be serious—even life threatening.
Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition
- University of Texas at Austin: “Medication Storage Tips.” Available at: http://www.utexas.edu/pharmacy/news/di_11medstorage.html Accessed 5-7-15.
- Learn about Rx Safety: “The Quick Scoop: Medicines and Your Family.” Available at: http://www.learnaboutrxsafety.org/quick-scoop.aspx#safely Accessed 5-7-15
- Crichton B. Keep in a cool place: exposure of medicines to high temperatures in general practice during a British heat wave. J R Soc Med. 2004;97:328-9.