Medicating in 90 Degrees
June 6, 2016 11:27 AM   Subscribe

How do I store medication in the summer when I don't have central A/C?

Most medication labels say to store out of light at "room temperature" which usually means ~60-75° F. My apartment does not have central A/C and in the summer can get up into the 90°'s although it usually hovers around 80° unless there's a heatwave. This weekend Chicago is predicted to get into the 90°s so I'd like to come up with a storage plan.

I have a window A/C unit but am out of the house a lot, and only put it in if I'm stuck at home on a 90° day as it blocks windows and air flow. Even then, in my large, long apartment it only cools one room (I block off the doorway so it is more efficient). I've read that it's not good to store things in the refrigerators, but also that heat and humidity can render medications useless.

None of my medications are life threatening or mood altering so the issue is not critical, but I also don't want to waste money on useless medications. In particular:
  • Solid prescription pills
  • Over the counter medications (tylenol, claratin, etc.)
  • Creams and ointments like retinol or a topical steroid
What's a non-A/C apartment dweller to do? Is it better to leave them in the kitchen and bathroom cabinets or put them in the fridge? Getting central A/C is not an option.
posted by Bunglegirl to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Call your pharmacist and ask.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:30 AM on June 6, 2016 [9 favorites]

Can you can put them in a cooler (a rigid-sided one), with something not cold, but not warm either? The cooler should hopefully insulate from the heat. You could put maybe a can of soda cold from the fridge in the cooler. This would keep the air in the cooler, but not refrigerator cold.
posted by hydra77 at 11:33 AM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

When my uncle wanted to cheap out on wine storage, rather than buying a dedicated wine fridge he cheaped out on some janky old refrigerator from craigslist that didn't keep food safe temps any more.

You can probably find such a fridge for free. College kids all just moved out of their dorms into their first apartments--check around.
posted by phunniemee at 11:38 AM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am not a pharmacist, have no medical or pharmaceutical knowledge, am speaking solely from my own experience, and I deny any responsibility for how following the following advice might affect your particular medications. (I suspect this disclaimer would apply to nearly everyone here.)

That having been said, as a fellow Chicagoan, my own medications that match your description -- at least per solid pills and OTC medications -- have not been affected by even the most significant of the heat waves we've had since '97.

I recently was prescribed an injectible that cannot go above 86, and for that, I am going to use a Frio case (which isn't exclusively for insulin).
posted by WCityMike at 11:42 AM on June 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

+1 ask your pharmacist.

In my home, for heat waves we move our more heat sensitive meds to the fridge. (epi pen, creams) Over the counter meds and solid pills stay in the usual cabinets.
posted by larthegreat at 11:49 AM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can make your own zeer pot. They are typically less cold than a fridge, but can get fairly cool. Temp info.
posted by Michele in California at 12:52 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

For most things, it is cycling between hot and cold that really ages them. Accelerated aging tests related to shelf-life kinds of items are all about cycling those temperatures.

I would store things in the refrigerator, where the temps are cool and - more importantly - stable.
posted by yesster at 12:54 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

i have medication that says it needs to be under 25 C (77F) and live in a country where it's normally (way) over that in summer, with no A/C. i was told to keep things in the fridge (and do so).
posted by andrewcooke at 1:24 PM on June 6, 2016

Call a pharmacist and ask, but I bet they'll tell you you can just put 'em in the fridge. There is rarely any drawback to storing chemicals at fridge temp instead of room temp; generally, it just makes them degrade more slowly. But call a pharmacist to be sure, just in case.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:57 PM on June 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

First off, I agree with asking your pharmacist. I'm not a doctor or a pharmacist.

I work in biotech/pharmaceutical manufacturing. The studies that we perform for the conformity of meds over time are designed to comply with requirements that vary from country to country. For example, we have the same medication that has different expiration dates based on that country's guidance on how certain medications are stored and treated. The requirements are kind of arbitrary. You may very well have some degredation of product based on the storage conditions, but I wouldn't be able to tell you what variables are incorporated in the testing based on your specific meds. However, I can tell you that most solid dose meds are tested for stability in their active ingredients at up to 30 degrees Celsius.
posted by kamikazegopher at 12:41 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

An added note: This is for meds that are advisable to store at "room temperature" and not for those that specify refrigeration or other storage conditions. Humidity also accelerates the degradation of many active drug substances.
posted by kamikazegopher at 12:43 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

For a lot of medications, the big reason to not refrigerate is because the humidity will ruin pills. Creams would be find with humidity though.

Many of the other suggestions here involve storing the medication in a humid place.

I put heat-sensitive medications in the fridge in a glass jar with desiccant packets. Don't empty the container into the glass jar, just pick a jar large enough that the containers you want to store will fit.

If your medications aren't especially heat sensitive, you don't need to do that though. You can look up the specifics for whatever the prescription pills are to find out. It gets over 100 where I live and I've never considered putting OTC medications or creams in the fridge, but if I was things containing aspirin would probably be the first to get stored that way.

Temperature variation can also break down materials, so pick a storage solution and stick with it.
posted by yohko at 3:50 PM on June 7, 2016

on the humidity thing, i should add that the main meds i keep in a fridge are all sealed (in boxes that contain blister packs that contain sterile bottles of individual doses). but i do also keep some vitamin b pills in blister packs there for a short time (weeks) and they seem to survive ok.
posted by andrewcooke at 7:14 PM on June 7, 2016

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