A Word with the DOCTOR
by Dr John Winsor
The Sunday Times of Malta

Throw old medicines away

I WENT INTO a house recently where the medicine cabinet looked like a storage unit for unwanted medical rubbish.

There were at least half a dozen bottles of pills inside, some of them nearly empty. All of them were out of date and in two of the bottles the pills had turned brown and were crumbling away.

This may sound slightly familiar to you. If not, then some of the other contents might: there was an old tube of pile cream that looked nearly empty and a burst tube of steroid cream which had a funny-looking fungus growing over part of it.

There were also several large bottles of medicine. One was nearly full of a red liquid and had a thick streak of dried, sugary fluid obscuring the label. Another bottle had settled out into two distinct layers - which stayed as two distinct layers even after a good shaking.

Finally, there was a pair of rather rusty nail scissors and an old tin half full of slightly grubby sticking plasters.

That sort of medicine cabinet is of no use to anyone. The whole lot might as well go onto the bonfire. But is surprising how many people keep hold of pills and potions long after they were needed. If you are one of those people, now is the time to delve into your medical cabinets and give it a good cleaning.

Throw out anything you cannot identify, or which is over six months old. Anything that belongs to an old or irregular visitor has to go and throw out anything that looks as if it has changed colour or consistency.

When you're done, wipe out the medicine cabinet with some liquid antiseptic and restock it if needed.

Apart from whatever prescription medicines your family may need, you should include a simple painkiller, an indigestion remedy, a laxative and an anti-diarrhoeal medicine.

You should also include an inhalant and some calamine lotion, plus whatever sticking plasters and bandages you can use without tying yourself up in knots!