When should you replace your medicines?

The first in a "GMA" series on expiration dates explores when you need to clean out your medicine cabinet.
4:06 | 03/16/17

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Transcript for When should you replace your medicines?
It's all about decoding expiration dates and this morning we're going into the medicine cabinet. ABC's Mara schiavocampo is here with more on that. Good morning to you, Mara. Good morning, Lara. The big question when can you throw things out there are some telltale signs, for example, if your medicine changed color or consistency, time to toss it. It's not always so clear-cut. A lot has to do with whether you're storing it in the right place and guess what, chances are you're not. The Bosshart family has no shortage of medicine. Two fully stocked medicine cabinets with a mix of over the counter and prescription drugs for pretty much whatever ails them. Anti-inflammatory, pain relievers, muscle relaxers. Reporter: Like so many of us mom Emily wonders when it's time to toss these and replace them. Joined by our chief medical and health editor Dr. Richard Besser we joined them in knowledge. Hi. Reporter: First stop, the medicine cabinet. Whoa, a lot of medication. Turns out nearly half of the family's medicine is expired. Asthma medicine, expired 2011. Epipen for severe allergic reaction, expired five years ago. 2018. This one is good. So, does the expiration date mean it's time to toss them. For critical life-saving prescriptions like epipen, heart drug, blood pressure and asthma med, yes. It is imperative to stick to the dates marked to ensure full potency. This is something that you don't want to be counting your life on. Reporter: Same for antibiotics, those should be immediately tossed when done. But what about over-the-counter drugs, many experts say using expired over-the-counter headache and other medication in pill form may be fine. Something is expired it won't hurt you but won't help the way it's supposed to. For most things that's true. You're not certain they'll work and a lot depends where are you storing it. Reporter: The best place for storage, a cool and dry spot like a linen closet, not your bathroom. The heat, the humidity in the bathroom, that's going to lead to a breakdown in drugs faster than it otherwise would. Any drug that smells funny, the color's changed, it doesn't look LI right, you don't want to use it. Never buy expired medication. We tagged along as the consumer department of affairs did this. Finding four bottles of expired motrin in one shop and expired children's medicine in another. Keeping an eye on expiration date the prescription for a healthy medicine cabinet. Okay, so just howften should you go through your medicines. Twice a year is fine and one easy way to remember, when you change your clocks go through your medicine cabinet and make sure everything is good. A lot of great tips and Dr. B. Is back. You have revealed sometimes you do use expired over-the-counter medicines. That's right. I'll use fever medicine, pain medicine, allergy medicine. Depends on your level of comfort because the companies only test them to that expiration date but if you're storing them properly they should be fine and won't be dangerous. Cool, dry place like a linen closet, not it in a bathroom where there is moisture. How do you get rid of expired medication. Very important. Don't want anyone to get into those and don't want the drugs to get into the water supply. Here's what you do, open up a ziploc bag and take your medications and you dump them into the ziploc bag. There you go. Easily, easily. You don't dump them on the floor because little kids will get into them. Then you have a happy puppy. Then you take some used coffee groups or kitty litter and put that in there to make it unpalatable. You add water to it, seal it up. Seal it. Very good. Then you mix it up. It'll dissolve the pills, the coffee grounds will absorb the drug then you can throw it away very safely. Great tips, Dr. Besser, we thank you. With me today, Dr. B.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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