Unused Medications are Unsafe Medications

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Unused medications are especially concerning when there are kids in the house. There is always a risk that a child might accidentally (or even on purpose) take an old medication. This can be very dangerous depending on the medications that are hanging around long after they were needed.

Many medications are harmful to the environment if they are thrown into your household garbage. They can contaminate the soil and the water, and we don’t need three-eyed fish or mutant frogs in Oregon’s streams and rivers - not to mention the medication that can get into our drinking water!

To safely dispose of medications take them to a “Drug Take Back” site or to a “Drug Take Back Day” event. This will ensure that the medications are disposed of properly and safely.

Marion and Polk County have several permanent drug disposal boxes always available to receive unused, unwanted, and expired medications. The following locations have medication disposal containers with the most convenient hours:

  • Salem Police Department on SE Liberty Street  - Lobby Drop Box available all hours, all days.
  • Stayton Police Department on N 3rd Street  - Lobby Drop Box available all hours, all days.
  • Walgreen’s on Lancaster NE - kiosk available all hours, all days.
  • Salem Hospital Retail Pharmacy (Building C Lobby)  Monday - Friday (Closed Holidays) from 7:30AM to 5:30PM
  • Keizer Police Department on Chemawa NE and Dallas Police Department on SE Court Street - Lobby Drop Box available Monday - Friday from 8AM to 5PM

More information for Marion County locations here. Other county information from the Oregon Health Authority here. Find information on the next Drug Take Back Day at DEA here

Finally, if a child may have taken a medication not prescribed for them, parents or caregivers should immediately call the Oregon Poison Control Center Hotline number is 800-222-1222.

Influenza Updates

If you watch the news or follow health news online you are aware that this is a bad flu year, worldwide. Here on the West Coast we tend to have a longer window of time to immunize and prepare as the flu works its way across the country starting from the East Coast and the South. Here are the high points of what you should know:

  1. It's not too late to get a flu vaccine, and it will still help. This year's vaccine is not as good of a match for the circulating strains as previous years. However, even partial immunity gives you a lower chance of experiencing severe disease or complications from influenza. Getting your flu vaccine every single year exposes your immune system to a wide variety of flu strains and may help improve your body's response to those strains in the future.
  2. Just like last year, there is no nasal flu vaccine ("FluMist"); all flu vaccine is given by injection and is a killed virus. The vaccine is recommended for everyone six months and older but is especially important for infants, children, health care workers, the elderly, and those with chronic diseases.
  3. While there are tests for flu, the diagnosis is overall made based on the symptoms. If you have fever, cough, cold symptoms, misery, sore throat, body aches... flu is a strong possibility. Flu hits hard: a child with influenza usually will not play or want to eat. 
  4. What about antivirals? We get a lot of questions this time of year about Tamiflu. Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is approved for treatment of influenza in children and adults. It's a tool in our toolbox but not a great one. If started in a case of flu within the first 72 hours it has been shown to decrease the duration of the illness an average of 24 hours, and it may or may not decrease the frequency of complications such as pneumonia. It does have side effects (most commonly nausea and vomiting, but rarely can cause hallucinations), is not always covered by insurance, and can be expensive. In a bad flu year there are often regional or national shortages of Tamiflu and when that happens it really needs to be reserved for the very highest-risk patients. The bottom line is that each decision about whether or not to use Tamiflu is one that is made carefully by our clinicians, and if your child is sick enough/high risk enough to be considered to be a possible candidate then we really need to see your child in the office.
  5. The most common complications of flu are ear infections and pneumonia. Persistent ear pain and/or worsening productive cough mean your child needs to be checked by us.
  6. Most flu responds to the time-honored treatments: rest, fluids, and OTC fever medications. Stay home if you suspect that you have it, or any other illness with cough and fever.