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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Moisture, air, sunlight and heat rob medications of their potency

Dr. Veita Bland / June 28, 2019

Storing medications properly is important. Heat, air sunlight and moisture can harm a medication’s effectiveness. It is best to keep medications in a cool, dry location.

Well baby, it is truly hot out there, and just as it is so very important that we take special care of our bodies when it is hot, we need to take the time to take care of our medications and the other things we take during this season of heat.

I know many people who keep their medications in their car. I totally get it. The car is with them most of the time. They may forget to take their medications when they are home, but the glove compartment makes it easy to take meds when driving through the drive through for breakfast, during that first break of the workday or just any old time. Well, during the cooler months of the year that may be an okay thing to do but even then, the inside of a closed car can heat up fast. What can that heat do to the medications or drinks we may have languishing in it?

Many products are heat sensitive. A classic example would be ointments and creams. Some of those prescriptions can be very expensive. Heat can melt ointments and creams and this can impact their usefulness., and, in some cases, they become totally useless. Heat can also alter the potency of medication syrups. Do not forget about your injectable medications that people keep for emergency reactions to insect bites. Many people keep these meds readily in their cars for convenience. If they fail to work due to heat exposure, this could lead to deadly consequences. Heat can also decrease the potency of meds for migraine headaches or antibiotics for infections.

How should you store your medications? Remember that heat, air, light and moisture are your medications’ enemies. Many people store their medications in their bathroom cabinets. Again, it is easy to get a little water and take those pills while in the bathroom. The problem is that the moisture in the bathroom, heat from the sink, bath or shower may damage medications. This can result in the medications becoming less potent or going bad before their stated expiration date.

Some other tips are to keep medications in their original containers. Some of the packaging is resistant to light and thus helps to prolong potency. Remove the cotton ball from your medication. That cotton ball will pull moisture into the medication once opened. Its real purpose was to prevent movement and lessen damage of the pills or capsules during transport.

The best way to store medications is to pick a dry, cool place. A great example of that would be in a dresser drawer. A kitchen cabinet away from the stove, sink and other hot appliances would also work. Some people store their medications in boxes on a shelf or in a closet.

Protect your medications, especially during the dog days of summer. And remember, moisture, air, sunlight and heat may rob your medications of their potency and thus their ability to aide you in your health quest.

Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. Email Dr. Bland at


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