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As citizens across the nation suffer through a heatwave during catastrophic fire conditions, NPS MedicineWise is reminding Australians to store medicines correctly, with extreme temperatures impacting the effectiveness of many treatments.

The government-funded group has advised that medicines can stop working when stored above the maximum recommended temperature. In addition, capsules kept in a bottle may soften and stick together, while ointments or creams may separate and become runny.

NPS MedicineWise clinical adviser, Dr Philippa Binns, says some simple strategies can help medicines stay safe and effective.

"Most medicines need to be stored under 25°C, so if you’re commuting or travelling, preparing for the possibility of bushfire and evacuation, or think your area could experience a temporary loss of electricity, you might need to use a cooler bag, esky or insulated pouch to store your medicines," she says.

"As a general year-round rule, don’t leave medicines in a warm place, such as above the stove or in front of a west-facing window. Rather, find a cool, dry place away from direct heat, moisture and sunlight, and out of the sight and reach of children."

Not all medicines are suited to being stored in fridge, as some can become too cold and wet and therefore not effective, but Dr Binns says that many liquid medicines and injections should in fact be stored in the fridge - but only if the label says so.

"And when the label says the fridge, this means the main compartment of the fridge - not the freezer. If the medicines do accidentally freeze, check with a pharmacist to make sure they are still usable.”

For families on holidays, or who are travelling long distances, it’s not advised to keep medicines in the glove box, as they can easily overheat.

For day trips, Dr Binns suggests only taking the medicines you need that day, leaving the rest at home. For families in possible bushfire evacuation zones, however, it’s a good idea to pack enough medicines and prescriptions to last if case you need to be away from home for an unexpected length of time.

If caring for elderly family members, or there are a lot of medicines to keep track of in your family, NPS MedicineWise also advises taking an up-to-date Medicines List – which is also available as an iPhone app – to make sure the schedule is maintained.  

For more reminders on family health and safety, follow NPS MedicineWise on Facebook.