According to the F.D.A., 2/3 of Americans have expired medication in their cabinets at any given time. Only 42% of Americans clean organize and restock their medical prescriptions and OTC supplies on a yearly basis. Another alarming statistic is that only 80% of Americans clean out expired foods from their refrigerators. Now that we are in March, plan to look around your house and make it a safer home for everyone.

Things to consider:

  1. Start with the bathroom medicine cabinet – If you do store blood glucose testing supplies or prescription medications in the bathroom, make an immediate change. The bathroom has the most heat, humidity and concentrated light source of any room in the house and has an effect on these products; they can decompose. Dispose of expired prescription medications (you can check with your pharmacist if you have questions about future potency) in the correct manner. Do not flush them in the toilet or sink; remember, that can enter our water supply. Check with your pharmacy or local health department for help. Store products in the original container so that there is no confusion in the house. Think about storing your medications, vitamins and supplements in a kitchen cabinet. Restock things like first aid supplies, band-aids, aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (Advil, Aleve, or Motrin). Include hot and cold packs for injuries. Add gauze, antibiotic ointment, cortisone cream and Benadryl for allergies. Be prepared for insect bites as well as sun burn. Keep new sunscreen available with SPF (change yearly) and insect repellent. Change toothbrush heads after 3 months, after a cold or flu or after a dentist visit. Check body and face creams for color and fragrance change.
  2. Talk to your physician or pharmacist about changing to generic medications this spring. This is the biggest year for medications to come “off patent”, which means other companies can produce them at a huge discount and pass the savings on to you. Some popular medications which now have generic formulations include Actos (diabetes), Lipitor (cholesterol), Plavix (blood thinner), and Singulair (asthma). Most generics give you all the same benefits as their counterparts, but do check with your physician. During your appointment, mention that cost is a factor if they prescribe a new medication. Consider a local pharmacy (not good if you travel and need medication in another state). They may have more flexibility to lower prices compared to a chain store. Spring is a good time of year to update your medication list and make a copy for your wallet, the refrigerator door as well as the glove compartment of the car. Add your allergies, surgeries, medical conditions as well as emergency phone numbers.
  3. Think about the basics of hand washing during spring cleaning – Always consider the old standby – soap and warm water. A study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases compared 27 hand cleaning sanitizers with soap and water. The result was that there was no difference between these products as far as removing more bacteria or spreading disease compared to regular soap and water. Wash hands for a minimum of 20 seconds and remove all jewelry. Dry with a fresh towel for best results. In a pinch you can use alcohol-based products that contain 60-70% alcohol and have a moisturizer included (alcohol dries out your skin). Make sure to use a quarter size amount, rub for 20 seconds especially between fingers. Hand washing is the single best thing to prevent sharing an illness.
  4. Spring clean in the kitchen – Never thaw frozen meat at room temperature – keep in the refrigerator. Do not put hot food directly in the refrigerator – keep it out until it cools down. Check expiration dates on condiments like ketchup, salad dressing, hot sauce, salsa, steak sauce and mayonnaise; we tend to forget about the stables. Check dried spices. They change color, lose freshness and flavor when stored more than a year. Try to purchase small quantities so they will maintain freshness (buy large sizes if you use frequently, which will be cheaper). Wash fresh fruits and vegetables with a vegetable wash spray or plain soap and water to help remove pesticides. Change out sponges, the biggest germ carriers of all or put in the dish washer often.
  5. Spring is the best time to open windows and get fresh air into the house. Consider air filters to eliminate pollutants either a centralized or portable system if you can’t let fresh air in. Things like dust, dust mites, bacteria, viruses, animal dander can linger in the house and on hard surfaces.

Spring is a wonderful time of year to make some positive changes. Start today!

NOTE: Consult your Doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.