Spring Clean Your Medicine Cabinet

While spring isn’t quite here, it’s not too early to set some time aside to clean your medicine cabinet, drawer, or shelf.  To some extent, most people welcome spring with a little extra attention to mopping, dusting, or vacuuming away winter’s dust and dirt.  While the windows may shine and the house and yard look fresh, the medicine cabinet remains untouched with a variety of forgotten old prescription bottles and OTC medications that “might come in handy someday” still on the shelf.  Likely some of these medications have expired and may cause more harm than good.

I’m guilty of keeping them too long myself.  Largely I forget about them and as long as I don’t need anything from the medicine cabinet, they are out of sight and out of mind.  Since it is a common problem, different groups have initiated “Take Back” or cleaning times to call attention to the issue.  Twice each year we have “National Prescription Drug Take Back Day” when consumers are encouraged to return unused or old medicine to their pharmacies, hospitals, or drop-off sites.  The first one in 2018 will be April 28; there will be a second in the fall, usually in October.  We also have National Spring Cleaning Week the last week in March when medicine cabinet cleaning is encouraged as part of the spring cleaning routine.

What should consumers do the rest of the year to safely dispose of medicines if they are unable to utilize the designated drop-off times?  The FDA offers instructions on how to safely dispose of medicines by flushing unwanted drugs down the toilet and for placing them in the garbage.  The downside of these alternatives are that drugs that are flushed can taint our rivers, lakes, and water supplies.  Drugs in the trash are a potential hazard to the environment and may be found accidently by children or pets, or scavenging teens or adults looking for a high.  In 2014 the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) authorized pharmacies and hospitals to take back drugs designated as controlled substances any time from a consumer wishing to surrender them; prior to that time, controlled substances had to be surrendered to law enforcement.  Controlled substances include opioid painkillers like Oxycontin, stimulants like Adderall, and depressants like Ativan.  Drop-off is completely free and anonymous.

Now there’s a new alternative.  Since 2016, the drugstore chain, Walgreens, has been installing safe medication disposal kiosks across the nation.  Not every store has one so to find a kiosk in your area, visit Store Locator.  The kiosks provide a safe and convenient way to dispose of unwanted, unused or expired prescriptions, including controlled substances, and over-the-counter medications, ointments and creams, liquids, lotions, pet medications, prescription patches, and vitamins and supplements at no cost.

Certain medications or items are not accepted at the kiosks including needles, inhalers, aerosol cans, hydrogen peroxide, thermometers, and illicit drugs. As part of Walgreens drug take-back program, the kiosks make the disposal of medications easier and are available year-round during pharmacy hours to help reduce the misuse of medications and the rise in overdose deaths.

Here are some tips to get you started on extending your spring cleaning to your medicine cabinet:

Check the dates. Examine everything in the medicine cabinet, including ointments, supplements and vitamins. Discard any item that is beyond the expiration date and any prescription medications that are more than a year old. It is important to note that the expiration date really refers to that product unopened.  Once a medication has been opened and used, the clock starts ticking on its shelf life as contamination has been introduced. Medications and vitamins may lose their effectiveness or potency after the expiration date. Some may even become toxic.  Therefore, write the date you opened it on the container and after one year, get rid of all things opened or partially used.

Discard any items that have changed color or smell funny.  Regardless of the expiration or use by date, these items should be disposed.  This includes any colors that have faded, because they may have been exposed to too much light

Discard unmarked containers. If something is no longer in its original container or cannot be identified, get rid of it. Medications should always be kept in their original containers so that they are easily recognized. This includes ointments, since these can easily be mistaken for creams.

Dispose of medication and medical supplies properly and carefully. Because of the potential harm to the environment or to humans or pets, it is not recommended to simply throw out medication or flush them down the toilet. If you must do so, follow the FDA  recommendations.  Consider the disposal options aforementioned and utilize whichever works best for you.

Most collection sites won’t accept asthma inhalers, needles, insulin syringes or any other syringes, marijuana, mercury thermometers, and medications containing iodine. For disposal information and drop-off locations for syringes, needles, and other injectables—for example,for example, expired EpiPens—go to Safe Needle Disposal or call 800-643-1643.  When in doubt about how to safely dispose of a medication or medical device, check with your pharmacist.

Remove any personal identifying information on the prescription label.  Prior to disposal or container recycling either remove the label or black out any personal information including the RX number.  Also be sure the container is clean before recycling.

Inspect adhesive bandages.  Bandages and tapes have a limited lifespan, too, and should be replaced before their adhesive breaks down.

Lastly, consider relocating your medicine cabinet.  The bathroom is not the best place to store medication. The temperature and humidity changes that come with the shower running can lower the potency of some medicines. Medications should be kept in a cool dry place, away from children, pets, and scavengers. Consider a locked drawer or a locked box on a shelf.

It’s smart to undertake a medicine-cabinet cleaning every spring.  An annual review of prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, and medical products can help keep us safe and healthy. Using an old product won’t necessary land you in the ER, but it could or it may not work effectively thereby wasting you money, affecting your health, or possibly delaying your recovery. Further, if the medicine isn’t on the shelf, it can’t be accidently used, incorrectly used, or abused.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Tick Season Has Arrived

Spring is a season I look forward to.  It brings green grass, flowers, leaves on the trees, and lots of outdoor time.  And unfortunately, ticks are also part of spring.  Because of mild winter temperatures and another wet spring, ticks may again be abundant in some locations.  Tick populations vary greatly from place to place and year to year. Ticks are most active from March to September with peak activity in April, May, and June. Ticks live and crawl on low-lying vegetation and attach to small mammals, pets, or people as they pass by.  Ticks crawl upward to find a place to bite.

There are more than a dozen different tick varieties throughout our area; however, there are three main types usually encountered:  the American dog tick, the lone star tick, and the blacklegged tick.

The American Dog Tick is also known as the wood tick.  These ticks are found predominantly in grassy fields as well as along walkways and trails.  They feed on a variety of warm blooded animals.  Without a host, they may survive up to two years but need a host to move to the next stage of their development.  They can transmit diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever;  however, this disease is not common in Iowa, Minnesota, or South Dakota.

 

The Lone Star Tick is abundant in the south central and southeastern US and in recent years has become common in Iowa as well.  It is recognized by the white dot on the back of the adult female.  The adult feeds on large mammals while the immature ticks prefer birds and small mammals.  These ticks are usually found in bushy and grassy areas and can transmit the bacteria of several diseases but not Lyme Disease.

 

 

The Blacklegged Tick is also known as the deer tick or bear tick and is the known carrier of Lyme Disease.  This tick takes two years to complete its life cycle and is found predominately in woody, brushy areas.   Both the nymph (about the size of a poppy seed) and adult (1/8” or smaller) stages are capable of transmitting Lyme Disease.

 

 

If you are unsure about a tick, you can submit it for identification to the Iowa State University Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic. Please click here for submitting information. ISU does not test ticks for pathogens.  According to the CDC, testing ticks for pathogen presence is not useful. (https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/removal/)

After being outdoors, make it a routine to check clothing and your body.  A good tip is to disrobe in a dry bathtub where ticks that might fall off and can be easily seen and disposed of.  If a tick has attached, it is important to remove it quickly and correctly.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend this method:

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  4. Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers. (Folk remedies such as burning or coating with polish, detergent or petroleum jelly are of no benefit and my promote transmission of pathogens.)

Clothing should be laundered in as warm of water as possible.

For more information on ticks, check out these resources:

Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases in Iowa by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Tick-Borne Diseases by Iowa Department of Public Health Center for Acute Disease Epidemiology

Ticks and Their Control by University of Minnesota Extension

Tick-Borne Diseases in Minnesota by University of Minnesota Extension

Ticks in South Dakota by SDSU Extension

This blog was prepared with the help of Dr. Donald R Lewis, Professor and Extension Entomologist, Iowa State University Department of Entomology.

Tick images are courtesy of and with permission of John Van Dyk, Iowa State University Department of Entomology. http://www.ent.iastate.edu/
A dime is included in the photos to give perspective of size.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Prevent Clothing Moths

The warm weather makes me want to finish up cleaning and storing winter items. I typically wash all our winter coats, hats, mittens, and scarves.  The flannel sheets and heavy blankets are clean and stored away.  The next thing I need to do is wash or dry-clean all our woolen sweaters and shirts and store them to prevent damage from clothing moths.

I did a little research on clothing moths since it has been a while since we had any questions from AnswerLine callers on this topic. These moths like to lay eggs on woolen and other animal fiber articles of clothing.  There are actually two different species of clothing moths.

The case making clothes moth and the webbing clothes moth both appear very similar.  They are both yellowish in color and about ¼ inch long.  They look a bit fluttery when flying and both avoid the light.  Their fully grown larvae are about ½ inch long and white when brownish-black heads.  Both will spin a feeding tube or protective case into the fabric that they are feeding upon.

This larval stage is the only life stage when the insect feeds; the eggs and adult moths do not damage clothing. The clothing moths prefer quiet dark areas like closets, attics and seldom used drawers or trunks.  If you store an item for a long time in one of those quiet spots the item is particularly at risk.  Moths typically will not damage anything in a high traffic or use area.

You may be wondering how to prevent a clothing moth infestation. The best answer to this is to be meticulous in keeping both the storage area and the garments clean.  Vacuuming will remove eggs and laundering or dry cleaning will also destroy the eggs.  Cleaning items will also remove food stains and body oils which will also attract moths.  You may need to brush or leave items in the bright sunlight to get rid of larvae or eggs.  Remember to brush the items outdoors so you don’t re-infest your home.

Freezing is another alternative to control the larvae or eggs in an item that you cannot wash or dry-clean. You must leave the item in a freezer set at 0F for at least 48-72 hours. This will be great if you have stuffed animals or items with feathers on them.

After your items are cleaned, store them in a tightly sealed container. You may want to choose a tightly sealed plastic tub.  Cedar does contain oil that acts as an insecticide but is only effective if tightly contained.  A cedar closet is not typically tight enough to actually kill the moths.  Moth balls can be effective if placed inside a tightly sealed container but they are toxic and you may want to avoid using them.  The odor of the mothballs is very long lasting so you may choose to just use the tightly sealed tub alone.

It looks like I have a project for this weekend, but once I get everything cleaned it will be safely stored for the summer.

 

 

 

 

 

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Garage Sale tips part 2

Last spring at about this time we published a blog with some suggestions of items to avoid when buying or selling at a garage sale. That advice seems timely again but we also have some suggestions for those who want to make smart purchases at a sale.

  • It is important to know what an item is worth to know if you are indeed getting a bargain. If it is a collectable item, brush up on prices by looking at collectors’ magazines or webpages. Even eBay can be a quick resource.
  • Look for brand names that you trust for high quality items. Avoid overpaying on the strength of the brand name alone.
  • Be sure that your really need the item. A bargain is not worth it if it is something that will just take up space at your home but not be useful.
  • If you are looking at a major investment, a car, boat, or large appliance, give yourself time to think about the purchase. You may even want to consult a mechanic or repair person for advice. The repairman may know what part of the appliance wears the fastest and the expected life of the appliance.
  • Be realistic about the actual price of the item. If it requires a lot of repair before it is useable, it may not be a bargain after all.
  • Try to arrive at the sale early as you will have more of an opportunity to evaluate the item.
  • Don’t assume that the price marked is firm; be willing to negotiate for a lower price. Be realistic about true value of the item.

Taking some time to do a bit of research should help you know a bargain when you see one. Happy shopping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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It’s Morel Time!

It is time to start hunting for morel mushrooms. I have been looking at some advice from experienced mushroom hunters to see what tips might help me find some morels this spring.

The first tip is to post pictures of morels all around the home or office. The theory is that if you are very familiar with the shape, they will be easier to spot.

Remember to check for signs that it is time to start hunting. You should see oak leaves that are the size of a squirrel’s ear, budding lilacs, dandelions, and other early spring flowers in bloom. At this time of the year, expect daytime temperatures in the sixties and night temperatures in the fifties.

More important is the actual soil temperature. Temperatures in the low fifties are best; temperature seems to be more important than the direction that the hillside faces. Earlier in the spring seems to be the best time to begin searching. If a cold snap occurs, there may not be as many morels growing after the weather warms up again.

Dead trees seem to be a great spot to search. Elms, Ash trees, Apple trees, and many other trees provide just the right nutrients for morels.

If the spring has been dry, look at the base of a hill. The soil will still be a bit moist there. Creek bottoms that get some sunlight are also great spots to hunt.

Once you have found some morels, remember:

  • Don’t collect morels that have been exposed to pesticides.
  • Don’t mix morels and other types of mushrooms
  • If the morel doesn’t look good (old, discolored, decaying) don’t harvest it
  • Use paper sacks, not plastic for harvest and storage of morels. They will rot in plastic bags.
  • Always cook morels, don’t eat them raw.
  • Follow directions for cooking and freezing from our previous blog post.

 

Happy hunting and eating.

 

 

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Disaster help

Dealing with Flooding

flooded fieldThe resources on this page and on the Human Sciences Extension and Outreach Finding Answers Now page provide information Iowans can use to plan before a flood situation, recover and clean up from flood water damage, and conserve water.

To find current conditions in Iowa, visit the DNR Current Disasters in Iowa website and follow flood and drought conditions in the state; find resources and assistance information. The national Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) provides additional resources for county extension offices on the Floods and Flooding webpage.

Hotlines

  • Iowa Concern Hotline: 800-447-1985
    Help and referrals for dealing with stress, crisis and loss in times of disaster.
  • Teenline — (800)443-8336 Available all hours, all days. Personal and health-related information and referral.

Clean Up

Crops

Iowa State University Resources, Fall 2016

Additional Resources

Health and Safety

Livestock

Private Wells

Stress Management

Stress

Before Flood Preparations

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Gardening to Attract Butterflies

SwallowtailWe have been thinking and talking a lot about gardens this fall at AnswerLine.  One topic we don’t always think about is planting things in the garden that will attract butterflies.  I seem to remember seeing many more butterflies when I was young.  Even when my children were young, I remember seeing butterflies more often than I do now.

This fall, while my garden efforts are still fresh in my mind, I want to plan what I will do next spring to attract butterflies to my yard.  I KNOW that my grandchildren will really enjoy watching and trying to catch them.  Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has a new publication that explains everything you need to know to plan your garden.  Butterflies and bees will also help pollinate other garden plants, so planting to lure them to my garden will help the rest of the plants and fruit trees in my yard.  I’m going to get to work on my new garden plan this weekend.

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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