Showing posts with label Health Risks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health Risks. Show all posts

Monday, August 6, 2012

Check Your Expiration - Prescription Meds

With the cost of prescription medicines rising, many people might be tempted to hold on to a medication just in case they need to take them again.  Maintenance medications, those we take on a daily basis for chronic medical issues, are filled on a regular basis.  But what about medicine we take for seasonal allergy relief or for temporary pain?  Should we hold onto unfinished portions?  Is it safe to take them again, even if they are a little past their expiration dates?

expired medine
Expiration dates on medicine also called discard after date.
Expiration Dates
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started requiring expiration dates on medicine sold by prescription and over the counter.  Expiration dates can be found on the prescription label, the bottle, or box of the medication.  The FDA contends that medication expiration dates help in determining a medication's effectiveness and safety after expiration.  Expired medication can lose its effectiveness and in some cases can even pose a threat to one's health.  Tetracyclin for example is an antibiotic that can cause serious kidney damage if taken after expiration date.  

Most expiration dates range from one to five years.  However, in some states, pharmacies are required to give a prescription a one year expiration date once they have re-bottled and dispensed it.  Berkeley University advises that under ideal conditions, many medications remain stable long after their expiration dates.  However, most people do not keep their medications in these conditions.  Once the bottle is opened, a medication begins to break down. Exposure to sunlight, extreme temperatures or moisture affect the stability of medications.

Are All Expiration Dates Equal?
Berkeley University lists the following medicines that break down quickly and should not be used past the expiration date.
  • Liquid antibiotics
  • Liquids requiring refrigeration
  • Insulins
  • Nitroglycerine
  • Epi-pens
The following are medications that may be safe to use, although could be less effective, after expiration.
  • Cold remedies
  • Topical ointments and creams
  • Pain relievers
  • Sleeping aids
Medication packaging also contains information regarding safe storage and expiration dates.  As with anything we eat or put on our skin, if it is discolored, has a strong odor or has changed in appearance, for example become powdery, it should be discarded.

effects of expired medicine
Expiration dates on over the counter drugs.
 The FDA advises that expired medication can pose a health risk if taken after the expiration date, especially if not stored properly.  It is important to read and follow the instructions for proper storage of both prescription and over the counter medications.  They should  be stored in a controlled climate and properly sealed in their containers.

Medicine Storage Do's & Don'ts
  • Do store in a cool, dry, dark place away from heat and moisture.
  • Do refrigerate when indicated.
  • Do not store in a bathroom medicine cabinet.
  • Do not store in your car.
Medications can start to break down and lose their potency (also called efficacy) once they are exposed to air and different temperatures.  Does this automatically mean that the expired medicine poses a health risk?  Not necessarily.  Berkeley University explains that there is no evidence to suggest that expired medication is harmful to your health.  It could depend on the medication.  Many experts feel that it is not worth risking.  The FDA advises not to take the risk.  The chemical composition of a medication can start to break down due to improper storage and this could be dangerous.

Even if  there does not seem to be a threat due to an expiration date, consider these reasons for properly discarding unused medications.  Robert H. Shmerling, M.D. of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center advises:

Medication Dangers
  • Abuse - Prescription pain killers are often abused, especially by teenagers.
  • Accidental dose or overdose - Children and the elderly can take medications by accident.  Taking a medication that is not prescribed can be dangerous even in a small dosage. 
  • Pets - Like children and elderly parents can get into medications, too.
  • Poisoning - Medication poisoning is a leading cause of death from poisoning.
As a full time caregiver, I will also add that it is very easy to grab the wrong prescription or even over the counter bottle on a busy morning.  Last summer while my mother was taking Coumadin, a blood thinner, she had several different dosages available.  Patients who take Coumadin often experience dosage changes, especially when they first start taking the blood thinner.  It can change every two weeks, or even more frequently.  I had to keep the different bottles well marked and separated in order to avoid giving her the wrong dosage.  Too much and she could bleed to death.  Too little and she could develop a deadly blood clot.

For some medications, we might have to keep some on hand.  For most we do not have to.  Don't make your job harder. Discard expired medication and avoid medication dangers as much as possible.

As rising costs continue to influence how long we hold onto prescription and over the counter medications, expiration dates will factor into our decision to keep or discard those old bottles.  If you are cost conscious, as most of us are, remember that the FamilyWize prescription discount drug card is free and can be used at over 61,000 participating pharmacies.  Save up to 75% off the cost of prescription drugs.

If you do have expired medication, come September is the DEA National Take Back Initiative.  This initiative allows you to return expired medicines so that they are properly disposed of.  We will be posting a blog in September as a reminder and give you more information about where you can go.  In the meantime, check with your pharmacy or FDA.gov for proper disposal directions of over-the-counter and prescription medications.

Caroline Carr
Contributing Writer

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Problems Sleeping and Health Risks

SLEEP - we all need it, but many of us do not get the amount of sleep we need; and therefore, do not reap the benefits of sleep.

We have all said it, "I AM SOOOOOO TIRED!"

Well today I am feeling it.  Part of it is my own fault; I leave work only to do more work.  I think it's called "Too Much on My Plate"!  I have been up until midnight the last three nights and my alarm goes off at 5 a.m. - UGH!  The other part is that as I get older my sleep deprivation gets worse.  I always considered myself a light sleeper, but compound that with back issues and typical aging body aches and the result is problems sleeping.  Even when I work out every day, I sleep slightly better, but still NEVER through the night!

I look for "Mr. Sandman", but he never comes. (Loved this song as a child.)

Of course, I shouldn't complain.  My daughter has narcolepsy, but not the kind where she falls asleep if she sits for too long.  Her brain literally doesn't know exactly when she is awake or asleep.  So at night when she thinks she is sleeping she is actually awake (makes for very active nights because her nighttime "day" dreams become reality) and during the day she may look awake, but her brain sometimes shuts down.  That is when we say, "She has entered THE ZONE."  It actually isn't funny, but we try to keep it light.

One day while driving to the trade school (she just started) she called me in tears.  She missed her exit.  She didn't know where she was. (This also has to do with a learning disability.)  I asked her to tell me what was around her.  Luckily we were able to turn her around, but in guiding her way, she said, "I think I fell asleep!"  I quickly said, "Don't tell me that!" (Mom's worst nightmare.)  We now never let her drive long distances alone (even though she is 20) because of her sleep disorder.  It is considered a neurological disorder by the state.

But she is not alone.  According to the Behavioral Effects of Disturbed Sleep (BEDS) Consortium at UIC College of Nursing, "problems with sleep affect over 50 million Americans, and these problems increase with age.  Over 70 sleep disorders are now recognized."

Sleep obesity
More than 50 million Americans suffer from problems sleeping.
The crazy thing is that everyone requires a different amount of sleep. Someone recently posted on Facebook a picture and stats on David Goggins (Navy Seal) - he ONLY sleeps three hours a night!! I would be sooo grumpy! Some people can go on little sleep and others require more sleep, but either way - when someone has a problem sleeping - the  sleep deprived person (adult or child) could face health issues as a result.

So what are sleep deprivation effects?

According to a health article on sleep by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, "untreated sleep disorders can raise your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and other medical conditions."  This is backed by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.  Their list is long for the relationship between getting enough sleep and long-term health risks.
  • Obesity - Yes, sleep studies show that sleeping more than six hours per night on a regular basis may help lose or at least control weight.  Lack of sleep affects metabolism, insulin, and processing of carbohydrates.
  • Diabetes - A lack of sleep can lead to Type 2 Diabetes. As with weight, sleep affects "the way the body processes glucose."
  • Heart Disease and Hypertension - Inadequate sleep can elevate blood pressure the next day for those who are already at risk
  • Moodiness - Another symptom of lack of sleep (I can attest to this one.) may be irritability and moodiness the next day.  Insufficient sleep may also lead to depression, anxiety, and mental distress.
  • Improper immune function - A body at rest is able to repair and heal better.
  • Life expectancy - Due to the fact that poor sleep is associated with so many disorders; it is not surprising that all of these effects of a lack of sleep can shorten your life span.  
To learn more about these risks and their related sleep studies, read the "Sleep and Disease Risk" at Healthysleep.med.harvard.edu.

To make matters worse, a Center for Disease Control 2010 study revealed that 30% of workers sleep less than six hours a night.  So we are not just talking health issues, we are talking safety issues as well.

I remember my dad wrecked his Buick driving home one night. Why?  Because he fell asleep at the wheel.  According to an interview with Dr. Gaynes of the CDC on the topic of "Staying Awake Behind the Wheel," driving drowsy is a problem.  He said that statistically, "Drowsy driving was implicated in about 16 percent of fatal crashes and 13 percent of crashes resulting in hospitalization."  

But that is not all; we haven't even really hit on sleep disorders. Some of them are:
  • Chronic Insomnia
  • Narcolepsy
  • Restless Legs Syndrome
  • Sleepwalking
  • Sleep Apnea
  • REM Behavior Disorder
The research, the facts, and the stories could go on.  To see more interesting facts on sleep - check out Achooallergy.com.

When it comes down to it there is no replacement for a good night's sleep.  I like the way the CDC puts it "...sufficient sleep is not a luxury--it is a necessity--and should be thought of as a 'vital sign' of good health."

Check in tomorrow for how to get better sleep and the benefits of sleep!

Donna Cornelius
Online Marketing Manager