It's hot here — Where can I store my medication?

Originally Published: June 14, 2013 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 07, 2014
Share this
Dear Alice,

I live in a tropical country and take a daily medication. Recently, I was reading the fine print on the box and saw that it said, "Don't store above 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit)." Here, the ambient temperature is normally 35-40 degrees! (I don't have air conditioning). I looked online and the internet said you shouldn't stick pills in the refrigerator because of the moisture.

What is my best option for storing the medication?

Thank you,

JZ

Dear JZ,

Taking medication as prescribed is already tricky business, without adding tropical temperatures into the mix. Your internet search did provide you with some good information — Refrigerators contain moisture and could damage some medications. In your particular case and since your storage options don’t align with the medication recommendations, you may want to start by consulting your pharmacist or health care provider for potential solutions. You can ask her or him whether your particular medication is safe for the fridge.

As you’ve noticed, medication usually comes with storage temperature recommendations and expiration dates. This is because medications can degrade over time and more rapidly in certain conditions. Some drugs lose effectiveness, which can be a real problem for medications like insulin that require exact dosage to properly manage health conditions. Other drugs can actually break down into irritating substances. For example, hot and humid temperatures can make aspirin degrade into acetic and salicylic acid (stomach irritants), while others can even become toxic after their expiration date. All this to say, your question is a good and important one! Here are some more general considerations to take into account when storing medications:

  • Carefully read the medication label for storage instructions and warnings.
  • Note the original appearance of your medicine and don’t take it if the color, smell, or texture changes.
  • Keep your medicine out of the bathroom, which tends to be humid and cause medicine to break down more quickly, and the kitchen, which can also be humid and get too hot due to the stove and oven.
  • Store medicine in its original packaging in the back of a closet, or another cool and dark space, in a locked box or out of the reach of children.
  • Remove the cotton plug from bottles, as this can draw in excess moisture.
  • Pick up smaller amounts of medications more frequently (one month prescription versus three months) so you don’t have to store it for too long.
  • When traveling via plane, put medicine in your carry-on instead of your checked bag, and when driving, avoid putting medicine in the trunk.
  • In addition to the moisture, storing medication in the refrigerator can cause damage due to colder temperatures. Just be careful and check with your pharmacist or healthcare provider before choosing this option.

Observing these suggestions is a first step to ensuring your medicine stays potent and safe. However, every medicine has different requirements for storage which could be hard to swallow depending on your living circumstances.   

Stay cool,

Alice