Northside Health Library

Storing your medicines


Where you store your medicine can affect how well it works. Learn about storing your medicine to keep it from getting damaged.

Store Medicines Safely

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 in your dresser drawer or a kitchen cabinet away from the stove, sink, and any hot appliances. You can also store them in a storage box on a shelf in a closet.
  • If you are like most people, you probably store your medicine in a bathroom cabinet. Unfortunately, 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 their 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.
  • Store your medicine in a cabinet with child latch or lock.

Do Not Take Damaged Medicine

It could make you sick. Do not take:

  • Medicine that has changed color, texture, or smell, even if it has not expired.
  • Do not take pills that stick together, are harder or softer than normal, or are cracked or chipped.

Get Rid of Old Medicines

  • 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 Throw out medicines that are out of date.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.

Get rid of unused medicine safely and promptly.

  • Do not flush your medicine down the toilet. This is bad for the water supply.
  • You can throw away medicine in the trash. First, mix your medicine with something that ruins it. You can mix with coffee grounds or kitty litter. Put it all in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Or bring unused medicines to your pharmacist.
  • Use community "drug give back" programs if they are available.
  • See this website made by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for more information: How to dispose of unused medications.

Traveling with Medicine

Do not keep medicine in the glove compartment in the car. Medicine can get too hot, cold, and wet there.

If you are going on 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 doctor for a copy of all your prescriptions. You need this in case you lose, run out, or damage your medicine.
  • If you have diabetes, ask your doctor for a letter that tells that you have diabetes and a list of all your supplies. You are allowed to carry your medicine, blood glucose meter, and lancet device on the plane.

When to Call the Doctor

  • Call your doctor for new prescriptions before you throw out your old medicine.
  • Call your doctor for a letter describing your condition, medicines, and supplies.


U.S. Food and Drug Administration. How to dispose of unused medications. Updated February 16, 2012. Accessed June 12, 2012.

Review Date: 6/12/2012
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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