The symptoms are all the same as before, so you diagnose yourself as having the same nasty bug you caught last year. Rather than reaching for your carkeys to drive to the drug store, you reach for the medicine cabinet, and are pleased to discover that you still have some leftovers of the medications you used last year. Almost as an afterthough, you glance at the expiration date and disover that the date has long since past. "What's the harm" you think, "it's probably still just as good as before."
The chances that expired medications are really just as good after their expiration date as before is highly unlikely. Depending on whether you're dealing with over-the-counter medications or precription formulas, you may actually be hurting yourself by ingesting them.
Unless your doctor stopped your course of antibiotic treatment short, you should not have any of the prescription left over. The danger of taking expired antibiotics is that over time, they not only lose their chemical integrity, but they could play a role in creating antibiotic resistance. Many antibiotics are coated with a smooth film that ensures that the medication gets released at the right point in the digestive tract. If that coating is compromised, the antibiotic may be released into your bloodstream too soon, and cause intestinal complications such as diarrhea or even a yeast infection. It could also irritate your stomach lining.
Medicaitons for serious conditions:
People having conditions like hypertension, liver disease, diabetes and other cardiovascular issues should be very careful not to take expired medications. Usually what happens once the experiation date is passed, the medications are no longer potent or effective. This means that the syptoms for which the are prescribed could fluctuate out of control and require serious medical attention to correct. Immunosuppressants which keep the body from attacking itself are just one example of a medication that should never be taken past the expiration date.
Liquid medications are usually mixed with preservatives. When the expiration date is breached, the preservatives can no longer work properly, and the chemical composition of the drug begins to break down, sometimes forming dangerous by products. Many liquid medications, such as intravenous antibiotics, inhalers for asthma, and mucolytics for cystic fibrosis, have a short shelf life.
Multivitamins and fiber tablets:
Medications without a protective coating are usually packaged with a dessicant, or one of those little packets of silica gel. This prevents any moisture in the air from acting on them, causing them to lose their potentcy. Keeping these sort of things around after their expiration date may cause them to start taking on moisture, which, in turn, can become a good breeding ground for bacteria. The danger of taking them is that now you could be subjecting yourself to intestinal problems or stomachaches.
For the most part, over-the-counter medications have a much longer shelf life than prescriptions do. No matter what you put in the medicine cabinet, be sure to read the drug information that comes with it, and store everything properly. This will protect you from the ill-effects of expired medications.