Ask a CHOC Doc: Where Should I Store My Child’s Medications?

Question: Where should I store my child’s medications?  –Anonymous

Answer:

Contrary to its name, a medicine cabinet in the bathroom is not the best place to store medications. This is because the steam from showers can change the properties of the medication and it may lose some of its effectiveness. Storing medications in a cabinet near the stove is not ideal for the same reason. All medications should be stored in a cool, dry place away from light. Medications should be stored up and away out of reach of children. If possible, they should be stored in a locked cabinet.

Some medications require refrigeration. The bottle should say “refrigerate” on it. Liquid Augmentin® is a medication that must be kept in the refrigerator. Some medications, like liquid amoxicillin, don’t need to be refrigerated, but taste better if you refrigerate them. Others, like liquid azithromycin for bacterial infections, should not be refrigerated because it can get too thick and your child likely won’t want to take it.

-Whitney Pittman, clinical pharmacy resident at CHOC Children’s

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Whitney Pittman, clinical pharmacy resident at CHOC Children’s

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Ask a CHOC Doc: How Important Is It To Finish An Entire Course of Antibiotics?

Question: Is it really that important for my child to finish their entire prescription of antibiotics?  -Anonymous

Answer:

Yes! Even if your child is feeling better, they should still finish the full course of their prescription as directed by their doctor. Even if, for example, they feel better on day five and their prescription is for 10 days of antibiotics, they need to finish the entire course as prescribed because the bacterial infection might still be present. To really beat the bacterial infection, it is important for your child to finish their entire course. Stopping short could cause your child to get sick again. If your child is experiencing a side effect, contact your pharmacist or pediatrician for more information on how to manage the side effect, such as taking the medication with food to help ease an upset stomach. If your child is having a side effect that they can’t tolerate or an allergic reaction, contact your child’s doctor immediately.

If the pharmacy gave you a full bottle of a liquid antibiotic, you might still have medication left in the bottle. If this is the case, you should always properly dispose of old medicine. It is not a good idea to keep the medication in the refrigerator or cabinet for the next time your child gets sick. Medications expire and they might not work properly or may cause your child to have an unexpected side effect. There is also the possibility that someone might accidentally take the medication.

-Whitney Pittman, clinical pharmacy resident at CHOC Children’s

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Whitney Pittman, clinical pharmacy resident at CHOC Children’s

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Ask a CHOC Doc: How Can I Properly Dispose of Old Prescriptions?

Question: How can I safely dispose of old prescriptions my  family doesn’t need to take anymore? -Anonymous

Answer:

Expired or unused medications should be removed from the home as quickly as possible to help reduce the chance that someone may accidentally take them. There are several ways to get rid of old prescriptions.

  • Medicine take-back options – this is the preferred way to safely dispose of most types of unneeded medications. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) periodically hosts National Prescription Drug Take-Back events where temporary collection sites are set up in communities for safe disposal of prescription medications. Another option is to drop your medications off in a drop-box at a DEA-registered collector, which safely and securely collects and disposes of medications. For more information, visit National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day or DEA-registered collector to find an event or collection site near you.
  • Disposal in the household trash – If there are no specific instructions in the package insert, you can follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the trash.
    • Pour unwanted or expired medications out of their original containers into a zip baggie.
    • Pour hot water (over 110OF – about as hot as a cup of coffee) into the baggie.
    • Insert kitty litter or another inedible product such as dirt or used coffee grounds into the baggie. Seal baggie. Place in trash bin.
    • Remove all personal information on the prescription label or empty pill bottles. Shred them or use a black marker to cross out label information.
  • Don’t throw unused or expired medications down the drain or toilet.

-Whitney Pittman, clinical pharmacy resident at CHOC Children’s

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Whitney Pittman, clinical pharmacy resident at CHOC Children’s

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Ask a CHOC Doc: Is it OK to Cut Pills, or Crush Them into Foods?

Question:

Is it OK to cut pills in half, or crush them to mix into my child’s foods? -Anonymous

Answer:

Yes and no. Some medications can be cut or crushed, but some should be given whole. This is due to specific formulations of medications and how they work in the body. Most of the no-crush medications are sustained release, extended release, or enteric coated. The reason these medications can’t be crushed or chewed is because the tablet is formulated to release a specific amount of medication over a certain time period. Cutting or crushing the tablet usually results in the medication not being released into the body properly. Some medications shouldn’t be crushed or chewed because they have an unpleasant taste.

If you feel like your child won’t be able to swallow their medication whole, ask the pharmacist if it can be chewed or cut, or talk to your child’s doctor about prescribing a liquid formulation.

-Whitney Pittman, clinical pharmacy resident at CHOC Children’s

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Whitney Pittman, clinical pharmacy resident at CHOC Children’s
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Ask a CHOC Doc: What Medications Should I Have on Hand for my Child with Asthma?

Question: 

What medications should I always keep on hand for my child with asthma? -Anonymous

Answer:

All inhaled medication in children using a meter dose inhaler will require a valved holding chamber, as well a mask for children less than 6 years. This is not required for dry powder inhalers. The child should have access to a reliever medication such as albuterol both at home and school. For preventative measures, those who suffer from asthma must have a controller medication such as an inhaled corticosteroid or an oral medication such as montelukast. These need to be taken on a daily basis for several months as directed by your provider to be effective. At every visit, your provider should give you an asthma action plan so that you know when to take controllers and relievers, depending on how well your child is doing, as well as advice on when to seek medical help. A peak flow meter, an easy-to-use breathing test for home use, can also tell you how well your child is doing, and is part of the asthma action plan.

-Dr. Stanley Galant, pediatric allergist at CHOC Children’s and medical director of CHOC’s Breathmobile

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Dr. Stanley Galant, a pediatric allergist at CHOC Children’s, specializing in asthma.
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