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Medicine mistakes to avoid

Avoid expired drugs

When pain or illness strikes, you head to the medicine cabinet for acetaminophen, nasal spray or anti-diarrhea medication. You probably don’t give those drugs a second thought when you’re healthy, which means you may not know how long they’ve been there when you do get sick and need them most. Avoid having expired medication on hand by periodically checking the dates listed on the bottles. To extend the life of your medications, consider moving them to a hallway linen closet or kitchen cabinet away from the stove. Heat and humidity can make drugs prematurely lose their potency.

You stock your medicine cabinet with a variety of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and first-aid supplies so you’re ready at the first sniffle or scraped knee. Just as you wouldn’t dream of giving your loved ones expired medicine, you shouldn’t offer them treatment options that are out-of-date, either. The new rules of at-home care:

Don’t give preschoolers cold medicine. Side effects from OTC cough and cold remedies can be life-threatening for children under age 4. Since 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended against giving these drugs to children in this age group.

Take a minimalist approach when cleaning cuts. You may instinctively reach for iodine or hydrogen peroxide when cleaning wounds because that’s what your mom did. But experts believe that the best way to cleanse a wound is with running water, with or without soap. Stronger cleansing solutions can irritate the injury, which is counterproductive to the healing process.

Throw out your ipecac. The AAP used to recommend that every home have syrup of ipecac on hand to induce vomiting, in case a child swallowed something poisonous. The group recently changed its stance, because research showed that induced vomiting could do more harm than good.

Replace mercury thermometers. A well-stocked medicine cabinet should have a digital thermometer, not a mercury one. When a mercury-filled glass thermometer breaks, the toxic mercury inside escapes and can be inhaled.


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