As bushfires continue across Australia, NPS MedicineWise would like to offer four pieces of advice regarding taking and storing medicines during emergency conditions.
“There can be a lot to remember during an emergency, especially if you need to evacuate or find yourself in an unexpected location, but your medicines are there to keep you healthy and prevent unwanted health episodes, so they need to be considered a priority,” says Nerida Packham, pharmacist and Medicines Line manager at NPS MedicineWise.
1) As much as is practical, store medicines away from heat, moisture and sunlight
“Some medicines will not work as well, or at all, if they are stored above or below a certain temperature,” says Ms Packham. “Others may change form or become difficult to use. For example, heat can cause gelatin capsules to soften and stick together, and ointments and creams become runny.
“Check the original packaging or the consumer medicines information (CMI) for more details on storage, but generally the advice is for most medicines to keep them at room temperature. If you are likely to be in an area of high temperatures, find the coolest, most secure place available (not the fridge or freezer unless the packaging instructions say to),” she says.
Information about the safe storage of medicines is available on the NPS MedicineWise website at www.nps.org.au/consumers/managing-your-medicines#storing-medicines.
2) Keep medicines in their original packaging
“If you do need to leave your current residence, don’t be tempted to just bring ‘what you will need’ in unmarked bottles or small food containers. And with liquid medicines make sure to bring the correct measuring cup or syringe, so you do not end up giving the wrong dose,” says Ms Packham.
3) Make an up-to-date Medicines List so you have your medicine details on hand
Our free NPS Medicines List is available as a PDF download from the NPS MedicineWise website, and also as an app on your phone. Visit www.nps.org.au/medicineslist to find out more.
A local pharmacist may be able to assist with an emergency supply of medicine for anyone affected by the bushfires who has lost or misplaced prescription medicines or prescriptions, if a new prescription cannot be arranged. The amount of medicine that can be supplied may vary, depending on the type of medicine and the Australian state of residence.
4) Check your technique
Poor air quality from the smoke is affecting many people - in particular those with breathing conditions like asthma or COPD.
“Using an inhaler can be tricky, but good inhaler technique is key to getting the most from your medicines, which could be especially important when air quality is low,” says Ms Packham.
Information about how to get the most from your inhaler medicines is available on the NPS MedicineWise website at www.nps.org.au/consumers/inhaler-devices-for-respiratory-medicines
For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for the cost of a local call (calls from mobiles may cost more). Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEST (excluding public holidays).