You're meticulous about monitoring the expiration dates on milk cartons. You carefully check sell-by dates before putting meat in your shopping cart. And you take a moment to scan cans, bottles and jars for their "best before" dates. But have you ever checked the expiration dates on the contents of your first-aid kit?
Do you even have a first-aid kit?
It's time for a medicine cabinet makeover.
If you're like the rest of us, you are probably missing items that you or your loved ones will need in case of an injury that falls short of requiring a visit to the emergency room.
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And, like the rest of us, your bathroom cabinets probably are filled with items that have outlived their "use by" dates, potentially making them less potent or perhaps even dangerous.
A recent study by the California Poison Control System suggested that many drugs past their expiration date are still effective, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not mince words on its Web site: "Once the expiration date has passed, there is no guarantee that an expired medicine will be safe and effective. If your medicine has expired, do not use it."
There's no need to panic. But consider this your nudge to take stock of your family's medicine cabinet and see what might need replacing. Make a list, and keep your eyes peeled for coupons and sales on the items your family is most likely to need. You also could take the easy way out and buy a trauma kit (they are often better stocked than a routine first-aid kit), and then buy a few more items to round out your supplies.
Need any more incentive?
Think about how much better equipped you'll feel about treating your sick spouse or kid with all the necessary items well organized, easily within reach and safely within their expiration dates.
That bathroom medicine cabinet might not be the best place to store all your products. If your bathroom gets excessively humid and damp, consider storing your items in, say, the garage. Just make sure they are easily accessible in case of an emergency.