Temperature changes can impact the safety and effectiveness of certain medicines, so it pays to be mindful of how you store them – especially when travelling. Dr Jeannie Yoo, Medical Adviser at NPS MedicineWise provides answers to some commonly-asked questions about travelling with medicines.
What medicines need to be kept cool when travelling?
Certain medicines such as insulin, some thyroid medicines and liquid antibiotics should be stored in a refrigerator. Once removed, these medicines may become unstable after a short amount of time. Your pharmacist can provide further advice on how long a medicine can be kept safely outside a refrigerator. Medicines normally kept in the fridge can be put in a small esky or insulated lunchbox with a cooler block when travelling – but don’t let the medicine come in direct contact with the cooler block.
Using a cooler bag may be appropriate for other medicines if you’re travelling for a long period of time or holidaying in warmer climates. If a medicine accidentally freezes, check with a pharmacist to make sure it is still usable. If you are not sure about how to store a medicine, check the packaging and label for storage information, or ask your pharmacist. Keep medicines in their original packaging – don’t be tempted to bring ‘what you will need’ in unmarked containers. And make sure with liquid medicines to bring the correct measuring cup or syringe with you, so you don’t end up taking the wrong dose.
Why is keeping medicine at the correct temperature so important?
Some medicines lose their effectiveness when they’re stored above or below the recommended temperature. They may change their form and become difficult to use. For example, heat can cause gelatin capsules to soften and stick together, ointments and creams to become runny, and suppositories to melt. Some antibiotic liquids may be less effective if stored for prolonged periods out of the refrigerator. Medicines that have become too cold can also stop working properly.
What’s your best advice for keeping medicines at the right temperature?
As a general ‘’year-round rule’’, don’t leave medicines in a warm place, such as above the stove, in front of a window or on the car dashboard (not even just on the way home from the pharmacy!). Find a cool (think room temperature), dry place away from direct heat, moisture and sunlight and always keep medicines out of the sight and reach of children.
What else can I do to ensure the safe use of medicines while travelling?
Don’t forget to take a complete and up-to-date Medicines List to help you keep track of your medicines and to ensure you always have your medicine details on hand.