Toss it

Scrutinize what's in your medicine cabinet

It's no secret that bottled medicines and old pills have a way of hanging around the house long past their useful life. While you're whipping your home into shape, don't forget to give your medicine cabinet a good, hard look, says Ernest Anderson, pharmacy director at the Lahey Clinic, a major affiliate of Tufts School of Medicine.

© Steve Biel

Be on the lookout for outdated prescription drugs, leftover antibiotics, "powdery" pills, cough syrups that have separated, adhesive tape that has turned yellow and sterile gauze in tattered packages. "Examine everything closely," says Anderson. "When in doubt, throw it out."

This applies to any containers that don't include expiration dates on the label. The medication or product was probably purchased before the expiration date law was enacted in the 1980s. It's a mistake to keep old antibiotics around "just in case," Anderson points out. "Using old medications to treat a new infection can be dangerous."