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Medication, Safety and Storage

Safe storage of medicine and vitamins is one of the most important methods of poison prevention.

Medication Storage:

  • Store all medication and vitamins in a high, locked cabinet out of children's reach.
  • Keep medicine in the original labeled container.
  • Keep medication containers tightly capped and store in a DARK, DRY place (NOT in the bathroom or above the kitchen sink).

Safety Tips:

  • Refer to the medicine by name. Never refer to medicine as “candy."
  • The phone number for the NATIONAL POISON CONTROL CENTER is 1-800-222-1222.
  • Do not give medicines to anyone other than the person for whom it was ordered.
  • Do not give over-the-counter medicines without checking with your child's doctor or pharmacist about medicine interactions. Do not stop giving the prescribed medicine or change the amount given without first talking with your child's doctor.
  • If your child goes to an Emergency Room or sees a new doctor, take a list of your child's medications including the name, spelling and dosage of each medicaiton. Or, take the medicines in their original containers.
  • Give your child's teachers, school nurse, coach, and babysitter a list of his/her current medications.

Medication Disposal

Do not keep any medicines after the expiration date.

Once a year, do a “medicine chest spring cleaning". Throw out medicine if:  

  • It was prescribed for an illness that is now over.
  • Your child's doctor told you to stop giving it.
  • It has an expiration date that has passed. 
  • It does not have a label.
  • Most prescription medications should NOT be flushed down a toilet or sink because this practice can contaminate our water supply.
  • However, certain controlled substances SHOULD be flushed. Controlled substances are medications which have a high potential for drug abuse and drug dependency. These medications may cause harm or death to children and pets or anyone else who finds them in the trash and accidently takes them. The list of medications to flush is on page 3 of this handout. This list was copied from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) website at the time of the last revision of this handout. Visit the FDA website on page 3 for updated information from the FDA about flushing medications. You can also ask your pharmacist if your unused medications should be flushed.
  • Dispose of medications that should not be flushed as follows:
    • Call your city or county government household and trash recycling service and ask if they offer a drug take-back program for your community. Your pharmacist may also be able to provide this information.
    • If a drug take-back program is not available:
      1. Remove the prescription medications from their original containers.
      2. Mix up the medications with an undesirable substance such as cat litter or used coffee grounds, so it will be less appealing to children and pets
      3. Put the mixture into a disposable container with a lid or into a sealable plastic bag before placing it in the trash.
      4. Remove any personal information, including the Rx number, from the prescription containers before putting them in the trash. Cover information with a black permanent marker or duct tape or remove the label and shred it.

    Importance of Refills:

    Always make sure you have enough medicine and you do not run out.

    • Have the medicine refilled before the last dose.
    • Refill the medicine before you go on vacation. Remember to carry the medicine with you. Do not pack it in your suitcase as it may get lost or misplaced.
    • Plan ahead for weekends and holidays by checking to make sure you have enough medicine.
    • Call your child's doctor during normal business hours for refills.

    Things to Remember

    • Wash and dry your hands before handling medicine.
    • Read the label before giving any medicine.
    • Give the exact amount ordered by your child's doctor.
    • Stay with your child until all the medicine has been taken.
    • Learn and write down the name, spelling, and dosage of your child's medicines. You will need to have this list with you to give to doctors in the future.

    Here is a list of medicines recommended for disposal by flushing from the FDA.


    Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

    Reviewed: 04/2011