Storing your medicines properly can help to ensure they work as they should as well as prevent poisoning accidents.
Store Medicines Safely
Where you store your medicine can affect how well it works. Learn about storing your medicine properly to keep it from getting damaged.
Take care of your medicine.
- Know that heat, air, light, and moisture may damage your medicine.
- Store your medicines in a cool, dry place. For example, store it in your dresser drawer or a kitchen cabinet away from the stove, sink, and any hot appliances. You can also store medicine in a storage box, on a shelf, or in a closet.
- If you are like most people, you probably store your medicine in a bathroom cabinet. But the heat and moisture from your shower, bath, and sink may damage your medicine. Your medicines can become less potent, or they may go bad before the expiration date.
- Pills and capsules are easily damaged by heat and moisture. Aspirin pills break down into vinegar and salicylic acid. This irritates the stomach.
- Always keep medicine in its original container.
- Take the cotton ball out of the medicine bottle. The cotton ball pulls moisture into the bottle.
- Ask your pharmacist about any specific storage instructions.
Keep children safe.
- Always store your medicine out of reach and out of sight of children.
- Store your medicine in a cabinet with a child latch or lock.
Do not use Damaged Medicine
Damaged medicine may make you sick. Do not take:
- Medicine that has changed color, texture, or smell, even if it has not expired
- Pills that stick together, are harder or softer than normal, or are cracked or chipped
Get rid of old Medicines
Get rid of unused medicine safely and promptly.
- Check the expiration date on your medicine. Throw out medicines that are out of date.
- Do not keep old or unused medicine around. It goes bad and you should not use it.
- Do not flush your medicine down the toilet. This is bad for the water supply.
- To throw away medicine in the trash, first mix your medicine with something that ruins it, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter. Put the entire mixture in a sealed plastic bag.
- You can also bring unused medicines to your pharmacist.
- Use community "drug give back" programs if they are available.
- Visit the US Food and Drug Administration website for more information: How to dispose of unused medicines.
Traveling With Medicine
Do not keep medicine in the glove compartment of your car. Medicine can get too hot, cold, or wet there.
If you are taking an airplane, keep your medicine in your carry-on luggage. To help with security at the airport:
- Keep medicine in the original bottles.
- Ask your health care provider for a copy of all your prescriptions. You may need this in case you lose, run out, or damage your medicine.
- If you have diabetes, ask your provider for a letter explaining that you have diabetes and providing a list of all your supplies. You are allowed to carry your medicine, blood glucose meter, and lancet device on a plane.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your provider for:
- New prescriptions before you throw out your old medicine
- A letter describing your condition, medicines, and supplies when needed
Medications - storing
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Put your medicines up and away and out of sight. www.cdc.gov/patientsafety/features/medication-storage.html. Updated June 10, 2020. Accessed May 9, 2022.
US Food & Drug Administration website. Properly store medications to keep your pet safe. www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/properly-store-medications-keep-your-pet-safe. Updated March 11, 2022. Accessed July 19, 2023.
US Food & Drug Administration website. Where and how to dispose of unused medicines. www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm101653.htm. Updated April 21, 2021. Accessed May 9, 2022.
Review Date 1/29/2022
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.