The proper way to clean out the medicine cabinet

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- About 60,000 children are rushed to the emergency room every year after getting into medication left within reach, according to health officials.

A simple step to help prevent the tragic accident is to properly dispose of unused or expired medications.

Consumer Reports said the risk for accidental poisoning for children increases with every bottle of pills kept.

"Those leftover pills are far from harmless. Taking them incorrectly or accidentally could be deadly or land a child in the ER," Ginger Skinner with Consumer Reports explained.

Parents should be especially mindful of leftover narcotic painkillers, such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin. Prescription sleep-aids like Ambien, and anti-anxiety medications like Xanax are also problematic.

"You really want to make sure medications like these are secure," Skinner said. "Either locked away or well hidden, just out of kids' reach."

Over-the-counter medicines could also create issues, especially those that look like candy.

A recent National Consumer Reports survey found that 19 percent of people hadn't cleaned out their medicine cabinet in more than 3 years.

Before throwing drugs away, it's recommended to remove any personal information from the bottle first. Officials also recommend mixing the drugs with something unappealing, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter, before sealing them in a plastic bag and tossing in the garbage.

If you're planning to clean out the medicine cabinet, experts suggest taking an inventory first. Open the cabinet and take everything out.

Check expiration dates, but also look and see if medications look chalky or have somehow changed in appearance.

Even if the date appears to be OK, if medication smells off or looks different, it could have been damaged by moisture and should be thrown out.
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