*Note: Some of the content below is for general medication best practices while other tips are specific to the medication mentioned.
As the summer heat wave in most parts of the country rages on, and rolling blackouts threaten our grid and safety, one area of particular concern is heat sensitive prescription and over the counter medications.
Most medications need to be stored at room temperature (59-86 degrees F) and ideal humidity under 60% to maintain their strength and quality. Some, such as insulin and other hormone related medications require refrigeration after opening. Many medications lose potency when exposed to heat, and are not toxic or dangerous, however this alone can cause life threatening results for those using insulin, heart or respiratory medications.
6 Tips to keep medications cool and safe
- Store in original container, out of heat and light. Bathroom or kitchen cabinets are ideal for this. If your bathroom or kitchen areas are too humid or hot, consider a bedroom closet shelf to store your medicines. In addition, ask your pharmacist if there are any special precautions or needed care when storing your medicine.
- If you use a medication that needs to be refrigerated invest in a separate small cooler with ice packs to store your medication in. Do not use this bag for anything else other than refrigerated medicines. Only open the bag when necessary to maintain the cooler temperature. Medications that need be refrigerated should always be kept between 36° and 46°F. A TSA approved insulin pen cooler, which can last up to 74 hours may be a good investment
- Use this same cooler for plane trips. Don’t check in medications, always carry on your medications. Temperatures in holding areas are not temperature controlled. Plus it is best to always have your medications with you when traveling (lost luggage, etc)
- If traveling in a car with your medications, take them with you, don’t leave them in a hot car.
- If you use mail order services for obtaining your medication, ask for heat resistant packaging or overnight delivery. Nitroglycerin is sensitive to environmental changes, and most patients using this are aware and have their pills exchanged on a regular basis. Thyroid hormones are also sensitive to excessive heat. Update: This tip is NOT relevant to the Jase Case or any antibiotics we provide.
A study done on Formoterol capsules (Foradil Aerolizer) , powder filled capsule used in an inhaler, was heated to 115 degrees F, the temperature of an Arizona mailbox, for 4 hours. The capsules were removed from packaging and dispensed into the manufacturers filter tube. Results showed that filter weights of heated medications were less than half of those unexposed to heat, showing that a significantly less amount of the drug had been dispensed after it had been heated. In addition, capsules exposed to heat were grossly distorted in appearance and showed visible clumping. Medication had stuck to the sides of the gelatin capsule. It would not have been available to the patient.
- Treat your over the counter medicines the same way you treat your prescription ones. These medicines can lose their efficacy when exposed to excessive heat and humidity also (Tylenol, Aleve, etc).
As rolling blackouts and heatwaves continue this summer in many parts of our country, staying cool is more important than ever. In addition to keeping our bodies and food cool, remember medications, both prescription and over the counter require attention and preparation also.