It’s summertime, and as the song says so beautifully, the living is easy. In Canada, July and August mean lots of outdoor time, often along with camping, beach and cottage vacations and road trips.
To make sure you and your family stay safe and well while having all this fun, there are just a few things you should keep in mind regarding your medications.
Inappropriate exposure to heat, air, light or moisture may damage prescription drugs, making them less effective or even potentially harmful.
Before you hit the road, talk to your pharmacist. He or she will go through your prescriptions with you and let you know if they are okay to carry in your suitcase or backpack, or if you may need to take precautions such as keeping them cold in an insulated bag (Insulin and liquid antibiotics are two drugs that need to be kept cool, for example).
If you are travelling in hot or humid environments, your pharmacist may recommend storing silica packs in your medication vials to absorb excess moisture from the air—excess moisture may alter the medications effectiveness.
Throughout the year, never leave your prescriptions in your car for more than a few minutes when the engine isn’t running—they can quickly be damaged by heat in the summer or freeze in the winter, which may affect the medications effectiveness.
Remember to keep your medication in its original, labeled container and bring along a copy of the prescription.
If you’re flying, check your airline’s website to see if there are any additional rules of which you need to be aware, and keep your prescription drugs in your carry-on rather than your checked luggage to be sure they arrive at your destination with you.
If you require syringes, insulin pumps or other devices or equipment that might cause airport security issues, ask your doctor for a note that explains your condition and details the medications and supplies you require to treat it.
If you are out of the country and need prescription medication, be aware that brand names for the same medication can vary from country to country—in addition to the brand name, keep a record of the chemical or generic name.
While you’re talking to your pharmacist about safe storage, ask about sun sensitivity that can be caused by medications such as some diuretics, antibiotics, acne medications and pain relievers. Similarly, some prescription medications make it harder for your body’s ability to cool itself, putting you at higher risk of heat stroke and dehydration. They include certain diuretics, antidepressants, beta blockers and stimulants. If you use a medicine patch, be aware they may release medicinal ingredients differently in high heat.
If you’re taking any of these drugs, your pharmacist may recommend scheduling your outdoor time for cooler times of the day and staying inside when the sun is higher in the sky, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. – never a bad idea.
Keep a close eye on the kids.
Prescription and over-the-counter medication poisoning accidents are the second leading cause of hospitalization among children under five.
Adult-only homes are often dangerous places for wee ones, sometimes with drugs that look like candy on counters and in purses or cosmetic bags. (Not to mention potentially toxic cleaners and garden products.) It’s never wise to store potentially dangerous drugs or chemicals in anything other than their original container, but – to be safe – you must never assume that other homes are as child-safe as your home. For tips on how to reduce the risk of poisoning, see our blog: Reducing poisoning risks in your home.)
Also, keep in mind the fact that child-resistant containers aren’t child-proof. Leaving small children alone with a child-resistant container can lead to disaster, even while you just take a quick shower while they’re supposed to be napping.
Remember that supplements can also be very toxic. For example, iron pills have bright, candy-like coating and can cause very serious injury even if a child takes just one or two.
Relax and enjoy the moment
Finally, don’t leave home without enough medication for your trip and an extra supply in case of travel delays. And remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. That’s especially true for the elderly and small children, but it is great advice for humans of all ages and sizes. And if you just can’t face one more glass of water, remember – it’s summer. A frozen watermelon juice bar may be exactly what you need, whether you’re four or forty.