If one of your New Year’s intentions is to get more organized, one place you might be thinking of starting is your medicine cabinet.

Often, a discombobulated mess of expired medicines, old prescriptions and a scattered array of Band-Aids and other first aid items, medicine cabinets are notoriously disorganized.

As cold and flu season peaks, you’ll want to ready yourself and your family for whatever may arise and that means having medicine and health equipment organized and accessible. Don’t miss these quick medicine cabinet cleaning tips.

Out with the Old

Discard any expired over-the-counter medicines, including oral drugs, topical ointments and creams, and unused prescriptions. Some pharmacies have prescription recycling programs wherein you can drop off or mail in unused prescriptions so they can properly dispose of the drugs.

Try doing a web search for “local drug take back programs” based on your zip code or ask your local pharmacy or law enforcement agency if they know of any.

To properly dispose of medicines yourself, follow the directions indicated on the medicine container. If there are none, follow these steps:

  • Put your drug in a plastic bag that seals. Pour it in if it’s a liquid. If it’s a pill, crush and run a little water over it to dissolve it.
  • Add absorbing compounds like kitty litter, sawdust or grounds from coffee to the bag to absorb the liquid and make it less enticing to animals that might go through the trash or dump.
  • Take off any personal information (i.e., remove prescription label) from the medicine box or bottle before recycling them.

If you have trouble finding an expiration date on your over-the-counter medicine, write the month/year you remember buying it on the bottle or box itself and throw out any in which the containers look old or damaged.

Organize

Depending on your health status or the number of health items you keep stashed in case of illness, you may be looking at multiple bottles, boxes, tubes, you name it, which need to be organized.

For those items you don’t use every day, you may consider keeping them stored in boxes or containers outside of the medicine cabinet, coordinated by category.

For example, you could have a set of cheap, plastic stackable drawers set up in a closet. One drawer could be for equipment like thermometers, a blood pressure cuff and a pulse oximeter.

Another drawer could be for cold and sinus medicines, another for pain and headache medicines, and another for upset stomach and indigestion. If you don’t have stackable drawers, try using shoe boxes instead.

Put Together Your First Aid Kit

Once you have your medicine cabinet cleaned out and all your drugs and ointments organized, put together a separate first aid kit that is a central place to find things to treat common injuries and ailments in the event of an emergency. Don’t forget to include:

  • Alcohol swabs (or alcohol-free cleansing wipes)
  • Bactine spray
  • Band-Aids
  • Sterile gauze dressing
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Anti-itch cream
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Antihistamine tablets
  • Over-the-counter NSAIDs or Tylenol
  • Aspirin
  • Safety pins
  • Sterile gloves
  • Rolled bandage
  • Sticky tape or paper tape
  • Thermometer
  • Sting/bite spray
  • Hydrogen peroxide or saline for cleaning wounds
  • Eye wash
  • Eye dressing
  • Instant cold compress
  • First aid booklet
  • Emergency numbers

For pre-assembled first aid kits that offer you even more items and organization, try this. You may also want to include backup supplies of your prescription medicines or other equipment – like a blanket and a breathing barrier (for CPR).

The Red Cross recommends keeping a first aid kit handy both in your home as well as in your car.

Additional Considerations

A yearly audit of your medicine cabinet is always a good idea for avoiding taking expired medicine and for being prepared in case of an emergency.

If you have additional medical needs or you care for an aging parent with health issues that require medical supplies – i.e., wound dressings for pressure ulcers – make sure to clean out and organize those as well. You’ll be surprised what you may find!

How often do you clean out your medicine cabinet? Do you have tips for organizing medical supplies and prescriptions? Please share your valuable insights below!

Jessica HeggJessica Hegg is the content manager at ViveHealth.com. Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living a healthy lifestyle. Through her writing, she works to share valuable information aimed at overcoming obstacles and improving the quality of life for others. You can find her on Twitter @Jessica_Hegg.

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