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By Casey De Farria
Casey De Farria
20 Dec, 2021

The dangers of unwanted medicines in your home

Originally published by Sarah Hunstead in September 2017

It is estimated that there are millions of out-of-date or unused medicines sitting in homes across Australia. This is a huge concern – especially for families with young children.

When was the last time you stopped to consider the medicines you store in the home – whether they are kept in the bathroom cabinet, kitchen drawer or anywhere else in the house. If they are expired or not currently being used, they could pose a risk if they end up in the hands of your children.

According to the Australian Poisons Information Centres, 5,580 children were hospitalised due to household medicine poisonings across Australia in 2015 alone, with most accidental poisonings occurring in children who are younger than five years old. The Centre also reported 32,000 calls in relation to children being unintentionally exposed to household medicines in the same year.

“I was shocked when I heard the number of incidences of medicine poisonings in children and even more so when I found out some of these cases could have easily been prevented,” said Natalie Barr, RUM spokesperson, Channel 7 Sunrise presenter and mum of two.

Here are some simple steps to help keep your kids safe and prevent accidental poisonings occurring in the home:

  • Store medicines and poisons out of sight and reach from children, preferably at least 1.5 metres above the ground and secured with a lock or in a child-resistant container
  • Read the label carefully before using medicines to ensure that it’s used properly and safely
  • Supervise children and never leave them within reach of medication or poisons
  • Educate and warn children about the dangers of consuming medicines
  • Remove all unwanted and expired medicines from your household

Return Unwanted Medicines is a Commonwealth Government-funded initiative that provides all Australians with a free and convenient way to dispose of expired and unwanted household medicines – simply by taking them to any pharmacy for safe collection and disposal.

“Return medicines you no longer need to your local pharmacy. This ensures that they are disposed of in a safe and environmentally-friendly way. It’s free, it’s easy and it’s safe,” said Ms Barr.

Review your home medicine area and read your medicine labels. Remove all your expired and unwanted medicines, placing them in a bag and container. Finally, return your unwanted medicines to your local pharmacy. Your pharmacist will put them in a secure bin for safe disposal. Each returned medicine is one less medicine in your household, lowering the risk of accidental poisonings that occur.

Watch this video with pharmacist Caroline Diamantis and Channel 7 Sunrise presenter Natalie Barr discussing the importance of returning unwanted and expired medicines to a pharmacy.

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