Lakewood Ranch pharmacists suggest a spring cleaning might be in order.
The home medicine cabinet, as many know it, might need an overhaul.
“People clean out their bread drawer,” said Jerry Pireaux, the owner, with his wife Kelly, of the Bee Ridge Pharmacy in Sarasota along with the Lakewood Ranch Pharmacy. “So I hope you clean out your medicine cabinet.”
Pireaux and Alejandro Vazquez, an associate professor of Pharmacy Practice for LECOM in Lakewood Ranch, were asked what a well-equipped medicine cabinet should contain these days and to identify some items that definitely shouldn’t be inside.
They both started in the “shouldn’t be inside” category with the same thought: Clean out expired medicine.
“Those beyond-use dates are really meant to say how long it can sit sealed,” Vazquez. “Once open, that date is not as good anymore.”
Pireaux said some old medicines might not hurt you, but they won’t do you much good either.
“Something like hydrogen peroxide, which really is 3% hydrogen peroxide, will evaporate. So basically, over time, you will have only water.”
But some out-of-date medicines can cause damage. Pireaux noted something like an old ointment could actually infect a wound it was meant to heal. And Vazquez warned, “Absolutely don’t mess with anything out of date having to do with the eyes.”
So what are some must-haves in the Florida medicine cabinet?
Both pharmacists started the list with sunscreen.
“Thirty and up,” said Pireaux, who said there wasn’t a lot of difference in the protection of the higher ratings. “People want color. If you don’t, just wear zinc oxide, and be done with it.”
Both mentioned long-time staples: Band-Aids and gauze along with Tums.
“Things to have in a household are different,” Pireaux said. “Older people are going to be different than a family with small children, or empty nesters are different than young couples without children.”
Pireaux talked about how new residents of Florida often have problems with bugs, especially fire ants. He said keeping a hydrocortisone cream and a Benadryl lotion allows people to attack the problem multiple ways. He said older people with thinner skin might make sure they keep topical antibiotic handy.
In terms of pain killers, Pireaux said most pain medications “are safe for most people,” but it helps to consult with a pharmacist to find out what is right for each individual. Pireaux said all his employees are pharmacists, so his customers never have to worry about a cashier trying to recommend medicines.
Vazquez hopes those looking for drugs, whether prescription or over-the-counter, seek out information from pharmacists like Pireaux and his staff.
“It’s where the pharmacy can shine,” Vazquez said.
At LECOM, Vazquez teaches a pharmacist-provided care class that deals with strictly over-the-counter drugs. He tries to teach his students to be passionate about giving out information.
“It’s free to talk to pharmacists, and they can help, and it’s where you can find out what’s best for you,” Vazquez said. “We’re a society that has a lot of aches and pains, and we need to find out what is best for you.”
Vazquez said each home should have a good first aid kit that includes the aforementioned Band-Aids, burn cream and antibiotic cream.
He noted that many medicine cabinets include ipecac, which induced vomiting in case someone swallowed a poison. He said it has been found that the poison stays in the stomach and esophagus, so activated charcoal is now recommended instead. Vasquez said everyone should keep it at home, especially if there is a child in the house.
He also said medicine cabinets might eventually become a thing of the past, unless homeowners need a place to keep the shaving cream and toothpaste.
“The medicine cabinet in the bathroom is not the best place to store medicine,” Vazquez said. “It can cause issues with capsules because of the humidity.”
He said if the household has no children, a dresser drawer works quite well.
“But you need to put your medications somewhere where it is easy to remember them,” he said. “I keep my medications under my coffee machine in a drawer.”
The coffee machine cabinet? Perhaps not.