During the summer, and due to the high temperatures, it is important to take extreme care in storing medicines and isolate them from light, heat, air, humidity and any other external agent that may alter them.
Some may contain excipients that can deteriorate with heat. This makes them stop being active and, in some cases, they can become harmful, especially during a heat wave, since the sudden change in temperature can cause the drugs to change their appearance, potency or chemical composition. .
Five Ways to Store Medications During a Heat Wave
The duration and storage conditions of all drugs are established taking into account the results of the stability tests to which they are subjected. It is important not to alter these conditions so as not to modify the effects.
The Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) gives us some simple tricks to store medicines in case of a heat wave. The first step is read the leaflet carefully that carry all the medicines, where the information appears with the conditions of conservation.
According to the AEMPS, three groups of medicines can be established with their corresponding temperature:
- Medications to be stored between 2ºC and 8ºC: in this case, they should be kept in the fridge. Thermolabile medicines or pharmaceutical specialties (vaccines, insulins, some eye drops, growth hormones and antibiotics) are susceptible to temperatures above 8ºC. It is very important not to break the cold chain so that they maintain their pharmacological activity and the heat does not decompose or denature them. The degree of modification varies depending on the temperature reached and the time it remains at this temperature. For example, suppositories and capsules melt in case of intense heat; Creams and ointments can change in appearance because the oil and water phases separate.
- Medicines at less than 25ºC or less than 30ºC: It is advisable to store them in the coolest and driest rooms, away from sunlight. In laboratory tests, it has been shown that these drugs remain stable at constant temperatures of 40ºC for several weeks, so they withstand punctual increases in temperature well.
- Take special care with some pharmaceutical forms: creams, vaginal suppositories or suppositories are more sensitive to high temperatures (creams become liquid and suppositories melt). Attention should be paid to their appearance because, if they have been modified, they should not be used.
- Do not store in the trunk or inside the car: if we are going to make a trip, it is important not to leave the medicines in the trunk or inside the car because very high temperatures can be reached. It is advisable to put them in a travel fridge where we can store them.
It is important too leave medications in their original containers to reduce the risk of exposure to external elements. The exception might be elderly or chronically ill patients who need a pillbox to aid in dosing accuracy.
As a rule, We should not keep medicines near windows, from a radiator, in a glove compartment or in the trunk of the car. Another aspect in which we must pay attention is the normal appearance of each medicine (color, smell, solubility, consistency) to detect any changes.
It should be taken into account that a degradation of the medicinal product may lead to a reduction in its therapeutic activity. Tetracycline, for example, can be toxic when the pale yellow powder turns brown and viscous and some antibiotics may see their allergenic power increased.
What happens if we go on a trip and take medication with us?
The measures that we must apply are different depending on the medicine. For those that can withstand temperatures of 25-30ºC, it is recommended to store them in a insulated container that is not refrigerated.
On the other hand, for those that do need refrigeration, it is advisable to store them in a portable refrigerator and check that the temperature is stable and does not vary too much. Once removed from the refrigerator, it is advisable to use them quickly and avoid leaving them outdoors for a long time.
It should be noted that the hot-cold cycle is detrimental to these fragile productsTherefore, it is important not to take the products out and put them back repeatedly. In case of travel, it is recommended to transport these medicines in refrigerated isothermal containers, limiting exposure to the sun as much as possible. It is necessary to avoid that the medicine comes into direct contact with ice so as not to freeze it.
We must not forget that the use of these containers is an emergency solution so, when we get to our destination, we will have to store them in a fridge as soon as possible. Nor should we forget that, in some cases, cold can be as dangerous or more dangerous than heat for medicines and that it can alter their stability.
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