Mind your medication

Lyle Karasiuk, spokesperson for Parkland Ambulance, sits in the back of one of the ambulances during an interview. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Parkland Ambulance is reminding people to be careful with old medications

This week is National Poison Prevention Week, and between that and spring-cleaning, director of public affairs Lyle Karasiuk thinks there isn’t a better time to check your medicine cabinet for old, out-of-date drugs, vitamins and supplements.

“Maybe there’s some old cold medication left over, or something, because your doctor has changed you to something different,” he said.

“Rather than just dumping them down the toilet or saving them for a rainy day, gather all that stuff up in a clean plastic bag and just drop it off at your favourite pharmacy.”

All mediations have expiry dates, including over the counter remedies such as cold preparations or non-narcotic painkillers.

“It has a certain life expectancy. If it’s expired, now is a great time to dispose of it as well,” Karasiuk said.

“As medications expire, so do their potency.”

It’s also a good time to understand how our medication interacts with other products, and whether you’re storing it properly. One way to do that is to check the label. The other is to call or visit a pharmacist and ask.

“Be sure when you’re filling medications, your pharmacist will ask about allergies, but if you’re taking herbal supplements it’s also a good idea to tell your pharmacist,” he said.

“Sometimes herbal supplements can interact with regular medications as well. We want people to be aware of medications this week.”

Karasiuk has one other piece of advice. He recommended people hide or lock away their medications and other toxic substances, such as tide pods, when children are around. The bright colours and interesting shapes can entice children the same was candy does. If a child ingests a medication or other substance, the consequences could be devastating.

“An accidental overdose will land you, possibly, into the hospital, and that’s never a good thing,” he said.

Parkland Ambulance often deals with patients who mistakenly mix two medications that shouldn’t go together. That’s most prevalent when they have similar side effects, such as two drugs that may induce drowsiness. While many people are careful, risks such as going to a different doctor or pharmacist may lead to an accidental drug interaction.

“It’s a good idea always to check with your pharmacist. If you have any questions you can also always call poison control. They’re your resource 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Karasiuk said.

“If you don’t know that number, call the Saskatchewan Health Information Helpline, 811. They can either give you the advice you need or link you up with someone who can.”

Saskatchewan Poison Control can be reached at 1-866-454-1212