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Allergy

05 July 2018

How to store your allergy meds

There are many different allergy medications which, like other drugs, need to be stored under the right conditions to remain effective.

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In order for medications to remain effective until their expiry date, they need to be stored correctly – regardless of the diseases or conditions they're intended to treat or prevent.

This is important in the case of allergy medication as a severe allergic reaction can lead to anaphylactic shock and even death if not treated in time.

General rules for storing medication

There are a number of factors that can affect your medication. Storing your medications under the wrong conditions can make them ineffective or even harmful.

Every medication is different and may have its own special storage requirements – whether at room temperature, in the fridge or freezer. It is therefore advisable to check for any specific storage instructions on the packaging or from your pharmacist. The following are general rules:

  • Store at room temperature (15 to 25°C). Temperature is especially important in the case of insulin.
  • Store in a dry place.
  • Avoid storing your medicine in the bathroom or kitchen, as the heat and moisture in these rooms may cause damage to your medication. Your bedroom is a better place.
  • Keep all medicines out of sight and reach of children and pets.
  • Don't use medicines beyond their expiry date.
  • Keep the original containers as they generally contain instructions and are designed for optimal storage.
  • Keep your medication organised.
  • Don't keep different medications in a single container.
  • When travelling by plane, take your medications with you into the cabin. This ensures more stable temperatures and moisture levels. (Your medicine is also less likely to get lost.)  


Most common allergy treatments

Allergies cannot be cured; therefore the function of most allergy medications is to relieve or reverse symptoms. (Bear in mind that although most allergy medications are for self-administration, some should only be administered by trained medical professionals.)  

According to a previous Health24 article, the most common of these treatments are:

1. Antihistamines block the release of histamine by the body’s mast cells. Antihistamines are used to treat symptoms like sneezing, watery eyes, hives and a runny nose, and are available in different forms, including tablets, capsules, liquids, syrups, creams, lotions, gels, eye drops and nasal sprays.

  • Tablets (pills) and capsules are easily damaged by heat and moisture. Aspirin pills, for example, break down into vinegar and salicylic acid, which can irritate the stomach.
  • Most medicinal liquids and syrups need to stored at around 15 to 30°C, which means that it's best not to store liquid medication in the fridge. When in doubt, refer to storage instructions on the bottle or packaging.  
  • Eye drops should be stored at an optimum temperature and out of sunlight. When the bottle is opened there is contamination risk through human contact, dust particles or fungal and bacterial spores. 
  • In the case of nasal sprays, refer to storage information on the package. Protect from heat and light. Remember to discard the product properly when it has expired or is no longer needed.

2. Decongestants shrink swollen nasal tissues, thereby relieving congestion. Decongestants are available as nasal sprays, tablets or capsules, liquids, syrups or flavoured powders that dissolve in water.

  • Powdered medicine needs to stored in a low-humidity, low-temperature location. Moisture is especially damaging to powders that dissolve quickly. 

3. Steroids control inflammation and stop allergic reactions. Corticosteroid preparations have anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties and are widely used in the treatment of asthma and allergic disorders. Steroids can be given locally or systemically (throughout the body).

Examples of local steroid treatments include joint injections, eye drops, ear drops and skin creams. Systemic steroid treatments include oral medicines (given by mouth) or medicine that is delivered directly into a vein (intravenously or IV) or muscle (intramuscularly).

  • Injections and drips are usually administered by trained medical staff. The main exception is insulin, which should be kept in the refrigerator (between 2.2°C and 7.7°C). Keep or use until the expiration date.

4. Topical creams or skin ointments are used to treat eczema. The most common topical treatments include prescription steroids in varying strengths, calcineurin inhibitors and PDE4 inhibitors.

  • High temperatures can melt ointments and creams, making them ineffective. It is therefore especially important to keep these products away from sunlight. The same applies to lotions and gels.

5. Immunotherapy or allergy injections can gradually build up tolerance to the allergenic substance so that the body no longer reacts to it. Whether in the form of shots or tablets, immunotherapy desensitises the body to specific allergens that trigger allergy symptoms.

6. Antibiotics may also be necessary to treat complications such as ear and sinus infections common in children with allergies. Antibiotics can be administered intravenously (drip or injection) or orally (tablets).

7. Epinephrine autoinjector reverses anaphylactic shock. EpiPen® gives the following specific recommendations:            

  • Always store in the carrier tube with the safety release on until you need to use it.
  • Keep at room temperature. Do not refrigerate.
  • Can be exposed to temperatures between 15° to 30°C.
  • Do not keep in a vehicle during extremely hot or cold weather.
  • Protect from light.
  • Regularly check viewing window and replace if solution is brown, discoloured or cloudy.

Image credit: iStock

 

Ask the Expert

Allergy expert

Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies.

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