Medication does not react well to heat and cold, as high and low temperatures can impact its efficacy.
Most medication should be stored at temperatures ranging from 15 to 25 degrees Celsius. When temperatures rise above or drop below this range (particularly above 30 degrees Celsius or below the freezing point), medication can change in appearance, lose its efficacy, or even put your health at risk. Special packaging where each tablet is individually wrapped does not fare any better, so it should be treated with the same precautions that apply to bottled medication.
Here are some examples of the effects of high or low temperatures: altered Aspirin tablets can be a greater irritant to the stomach; thyroid hormone tablets and contraceptives are particularly affected by high temperatures; glucose, pregnancy and ovulation test strips are very sensitive to humidity; insulin and other injectable or liquid medicines that are usually stored in the fridge must be protected from freezing.
Special attention must be paid to insulin, anticoagulants and epilepsy medication, since even a slight change in the administered dose can have significant health repercussions.
When travelling, keep your medicines handy in a separate bag, and avoid leaving them in the car (especially in the trunk or glove compartment, where temperatures can get very high in the sun). If you leave the vehicle, take your medication with you. The same applies to plane travel.
Despite its name, a “medicine cabinet” in the bathroom is the worst place in the house to store medication, because it is generally too humid. Only bandages and other hygiene products should be stored there. Medicines should be stored in a cool, dry place such as a closet or a kitchen cabinet that is protected from sunlight and heat from the oven. If children or pets can reach these places, put the medicines in a locked box or on an out-of-reach shelf.
Never use medication that has changed in appearance, regardless of the expiry date listed. Also pay attention to unusual odours. Clumped or softened tablets should also be discarded. Bring all expired or damaged medication to your pharmacy personnel, who will dispose of it in a safe manner.