Medications possibly affected by power outages


July 13, 2012

MASON COUNTY — Though several around the county have had electricity back for some time, there are others who have only recently gotten back on the grid in the past couple days and while food items are easily distinguishable between good and spoiled, the same may not be true for a supply of medications.

According to the West Virginia Poison Center, medications need to be stored under appropriate temperatures and conditions to ensure that they maintain optimum quality standards. But for medications normally stored at room temperature, brief interruptions in ideal storage conditions will be tolerated. Storing for long periods at high temperatures (over 86 degrees F) or storage for shorter time periods at extreme heat (over 100 degrees F) will, however, cause them to lose effectiveness before the expiration date stamped on the label.

For medications that are normally stored in the refrigerator whether or not the medication will still be effective if the refrigerator loses power will depend on the type of medication. Residents should contact your pharmacist if your medicines were exposed to high temperatures for a prolonged period.

The West Virginia Poison Center reported not to take any medication that has undergone any change, such as:

• a change in color, appearance, or consistency, such as pills that seem harder or softer than normal, pills that stick together or are cracked or chipped, or ointments or creams that appear to have separated.

• a change in odor or development of an unusual or different smell.

Other medication safety tips include keeping all medications in their original containers with labels. Residents shouldn’t combine medications in one container or bag for easy travel, which can lead to accidental overdoses. Residents should also read all medication labels prior to use. If the power is still out, use a flashlight to make sure the label is read.

According to Dr. Abate, the Director of the West Virginia Center for Drug and Health Information at the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy, the following are some examples of medications that can place those taking them at risk for serious harm if they are exposed to the heat and do not have adequate fluid intake: Lithium, Antihistamines (found in some allergy medicine and some medicines for colds), Diuretics (“fluid pills”), Amitriptyline, olanzepine, paroxetine, drugs used to treat overactive bladder, and amphetamines.

In addition to avoiding unsafe medications, the West Virginia Poison Center also offers the following tips for poison prevention and storm safety:

• Lamp oil can look like apple juice to a child or an unsuspecting adult. Store in its original container and keep out of children’s reach.

• Siphoning gasoline and diesel fuel by mouth can result in accidental ingestions and serious injury.

• Generators emit carbon monoxide and should only be used outdoors. Never bring a generator indoors, not even in a basement. Do not place in an attached garage. Follow the manufacturer’s safety and placement instructions exactly.

• Keep the West Virginia Poison Center’s number handy for any questions relating to poisonings and the storm. Call our medical experts at 1-800-222-1222, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For more tips and more information about the West Virginia Poison Center, visit