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How does heat affect medications?

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Medication can be affected by extreme heat. It’s best to store medicine in a cool, dry place. (Heather Khalifa/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

Sarah Gantz
The Philadelphia Inquirer

You know by now that high temps and humidity can affect your mood, your child’s behavior, your pet’s well-being and even your favorite zoo animal’s appetite.

Heat can also affect medications. Here’s what to know:

How does extreme heat affect medications?

Extreme temperatures can affect the potency and effectiveness of medication, which is why it’s important to pay attention to the label’s storage instructions. Although some medications, such as those in pill form, may be more tolerant of temperature variations, liquid medications, such as insulin, are sensitive to temperature changes, according to Ohio State University Wexler Medical Center.

Where should I store medications?

A cool, dry cabinet or drawer is generally a good spot for medications. Make sure any medications kept in the bathroom are stored in their original bottles, with tight seals to avoid damage from the moisture and steam from a hot shower. Kitchen cabinets away from the stove and microwave, or a dresser drawer are storage options with less temperature and humidity fluctuation. But be sure to put medications somewhere children can’t reach them.

Are mail-order prescriptions safe if exposed to high heat?

It depends. Pharmacies and drug manufacturers are required by the FDA to take precautions to protect the integrity of medications delivered by mail. They may use special temperature-control packaging, place temperature-monitoring devices in the packages, or use expedited shipping, according to Good Rx Health, which tracks drug prices.

Still, even properly packaged medications may wind up on a hot doorstep for several hours. Good Rx Health recommends tracking deliveries, so you can plan to bring them inside when they arrive. If that’s not possible, call the mail order pharmacy to request delivery instructions to limit the amount of time medication is outside in the heat. A pharmacist can also tell you how vulnerable to heat damage your medications are.

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