Taking care of medicines during bushfires

NPS MedicineWise has released advice to help people take care of their medicines during the bushfire crisis.

Pharmacist and Medicines Line manager at NPS MedicineWise Nerida Packham said there could be a lot to remember during an emergency, especially if people needed to evacuate from an area or found themselves in an unexpected location.

But medicines helped to keep people healthy and prevent unwanted health episodes so they needed to be considered a priority.

She offered four major tips on looking after medicines.

1) As much as is practical, store medicines away from heat, moisture and sunlight

“Some medicines will not work as well, or at all, if they are stored above or below a certain temperature,” Ms Packham said.

“Others may change form or become difficult to use. For example, heat can cause gelatine capsules to soften and stick together, and ointments and creams become runny.

“Check the original packaging or the consumer medicines information (CMI) for more details on storage, but generally the advice is for most medicines to keep them at room temperature.

“If you are likely to be in an area of high temperatures, find the coolest, most secure place available (not the fridge or freezer unless the packaging instructions say to).”

Information about the safe storage of medicines is available on the NPS MedicineWise website here.

2) Keep medicines in their original packaging

“If you do need to leave your current residence, don’t be tempted to just bring ‘what you will need’ in unmarked bottles or small food containers. And with liquid medicines make sure to bring the correct measuring cup or syringe, so you do not end up giving the wrong dose,” Ms Packham said.

3) Make an up-to-date medicines list so medicine details are on hand

The free NPS Medicines List is available as a PDF download from the NPS MedicineWise website, and also as an app for phones.

A local pharmacist may be able to assist with an emergency supply of medicine for anyone affected by the bushfires who has lost or misplaced prescription medicines or prescriptions, if a new prescription cannot be arranged. The amount of medicine that can be supplied may vary, depending on the type of medicine and the Australian state of residence.

4) Check your technique

Poor air quality from the smoke is affecting many people – particularly those with breathing conditions like asthma or COPD.

“Using an inhaler can be tricky, but good inhaler technique is key to getting the most from your medicines, which could be especially important when air quality is low,” Ms Packham said.

Information about how to get the most from inhaler medicines is available on the NPS MedicineWise website.

For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for the cost of a local call (calls from mobiles may cost more). Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEST (excluding public holidays)

Contact: The Guild
Phone: 13GUILD

Credit: The Pharmacy of Guild Australia.