If you packed your suitcase with the medicine you need, put the suitcase in the trunk of your car, and then drove several hours in beastly hot weather -- don't be surprised if none of your drugs work while you're on vacation.
Medications don't do any better in sweltering summer weather than you do.
Extreme temperatures -- whether in the trunk of your car, in a plane's cargo hold, even in your mailbox -- can cause medicine to become ineffective.
A recent story by Walecia Konrad in the New York Times described how her son's allergy medicine didn't seem to be working while they were on vacation at the lake. Turns out, keeping it in a suitcase in the oven-like trunk of her car for the six-hour drive probably rendered it ineffective.
Most medication, say pharmacists, can be safely stored in a place where temperatures range from 58 to 86 degrees, although drug manufacturers recommend 68 to 77 degrees as optimal.
A spokesman with the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York told ABC News that summer is often when drugs are exposed to extreme conditions, both during travel and -- as many older Americans do -- when mail-ordering drugs. On a 101-degree day, the interior of a black mailbox can reach as high as 136 degrees -- terrible conditions for important meds.
Here are some tips for keeping medications safe this season:
* Don't put drugs in a suitcase you'll be checking when flying. Put them in your carry-on luggage.
* Don't put drugs in the trunk when driving. Keep them in the air-conditioned car and take them with you if you're going to park the car for any length of time.
* Make sure mail-order drugs don't sit outside on your porch or in your mailbox for hours or days. Choose overnight shipping and make sure someone will be around to pick them up. If you work, have the medication shipped to your office. Insulins and other injectable drugs, which need to be refrigerated, are especially vulnerable to extreme temperatures -- either heat or cold.
If you have any questions about how to store your medication, ask your pharmacist.
- Are the meds you take hazardous to your health?
- Are my mother's medications making her fall?
- Keep a personal medication record.
- AARP's Ask the Pharmacist column.
Photo credit: Benimoto via flickr.com