Can You Freeze Liquid Medication? or Has It Frozen? Here’s the AnswerPosted May 17, 2019 by Michael Chamberlain
Have you ever wondered whether you can store medications in your freezer? If you’ve ever thought about it being a good storage solution to keep your medications useful for longer periods of time, or maybe if you’re going on a longer trip, you may have toyed with the idea of getting your prescription filled – assuming it’s valid – and keeping some safely stored in your freezer for when you return or for a later date. Or maybe you’ve left your prescription medication in your car on a freezing cold night and are wondering if your liquid medications are still safe to use?
Well, here’s the quick response and then we’ll look at some particular questions and scenarios about medications freezing.
Can you freeze liquid medicine? Each medication type has recommended storage conditions, and it’s advisable to check this with your pharmacist. Freezing medications in error may render them ineffective or even harmful if storage conditions are not followed. Medications safe to freeze should be frozen at temperatures between -10 and -25.
But, many factors can damage medication, including heat, air, light, and excess moisture, so before you reach for the deep freezer or leave the medication you just picked up from the drug store in your car on a cold night, read on a bit further as we discuss liquid medication and it’s storage requirements in more detail.
A Brief Explanation of Liquid Medications
Significant advances in medicine have helped us to lead longer and healthier lives, but in the current time, most medication is still prescribed in solid form. The active part of medication is sometimes combined with a liquid to make the medicine more palatable, easier to take or better absorbed into your bloodstream. They’re also more commonly used for children and the elderly.
Liquid medication contains sweeteners and other flavorings which result in making it taste more palatable. Liquid medications have a ‘gloopy’ consistency which makes them easier to swallow. The consistency is very important – if it’s too runny, patients with swallowing difficulties may choke.
Liquid medications also contain other ingredients to ensure the active medication stays in the medicine and works properly. Mainly to ensure there’s an even distribution of the active drug throughout the whole bottle.
Most liquid medications require you to shake the bottle. It’s important you do this to make sure the drug particles are evenly dispersed throughout the medicine. Some liquid medicines may also contain alcohol. These should obviously be avoided in children, but care should also be taken by patients who have problems with their liver.
Liquid medicine is very useful for people who struggle swallowing tablets or pills and it may be worth asking your doctor if there’s a liquid medication alternative if:
- It’s physically difficult or uncomfortable for you to swallow tablets or pills
- It’s physically painful for you to swallow tablets or pills
- You have to break or crush tablets or pills so they can be swallowed
- You often mix your tablets or pills with food or drink
- You have to chew tablets or pills
What’s the Correct Temperature to Store Medication
Every medication has its own recommended storage conditions. Exposure of medications to inappropriate conditions can render them ineffective, or even harmful. The types of storage for medicines include:
- Room temperature
Therefore, it’s advisable to check with your pharmacist first to find out the correct way to store your medications whether they’re liquid or in solid form.
The majority of medications are stored at room temperature in a cool, dry place. It is not advised to store medications in the bathroom medicine cabinet since the heat and the moisture from the bath, shower or sink may damage them.
How to Store Liquid Medication
Common medications with special storage requirements include insulins and liquid antibiotics. Insulin works well and is stable at room temperature for up to 28-30 days, however, insulin which will not be used up in that time period or any other liquid medication that
requires refrigeration must be kept cool. If you are planning on traveling, this can be done either by using a cooler or a chilled thermos, which should then be refrigerated once your destination has been reached. Or you can look into getting your prescription filled in another state.
Children’s liquid antibiotics vary in their recommended storage. Some medication is required to be refrigerated, some need to be stored at room temperature, whereas others may have different expiration dates dependant on which option has been chosen. Do make sure you check with your pharmacist to ensure you are storing your liquid medications correctly.
Let’s read on further to take a look at how cold temperature affects medication in over the counter drugs.
How Are My Medications Stored in the Pharmacy?
Some medications must be refrigerated when stored in a pharmacy, which also may have special storage requirements after being dispensed to the patient, and there are only a few medicines that require freezing prior to use. Medications that require refrigeration include vaccines and other medications that are injected.
Medicines which have to be kept frozen are far less common and usually only include vaccines, rather than prescription medication.
‘There are only a few medicines that require freezing prior to use’
In a hospital setting, individual doses of some medications such as oral antibiotics might be stored in the freezer to prolong their shelf-life. They are then simply thawed within a matter of minutes and dispensed as and when needed.
Do Cold Temperatures Affect Over the Counter Drugs?
Extreme temperatures can have a big effect on both prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
The majority of over the counter or OTC medications are designed to be stored at approximately room temperature which is between 68 – 77 degrees Fahrenheit and at an average air moisture level (relative humidity of 35 x 45%). When medicines are stored at this temperature their ingredients remain active and unchanged until the expiration date listed on the packaging.
The FDA requires OTC manufacturers to subject their products to ‘stress’ testing, which expose the products to varying temperatures, light and moisture levels outside of the recommended storage conditions. This is to allow the manufacturers to test the safety of the drug when exposed to conditions such as extreme temperature.
What Happens When Liquid Medicines Freeze?
In a matter of minutes, potentially life-saving medication such as insulin can turn deadly. Any type of liquid medication left in a cold car can freeze causing tiny crystals to form inside the liquid. Sometimes the crystals can be so small that they are not visible to the naked eye and could get injected into your bloodstream.
It is both surprising and shocking to discover that these tiny crystals could easily travel to your major organs such as the liver or heart and have the potential to cut off your blood flow.
‘Many medications, both in solid or liquid form can freeze fast’
How Long Before Liquid Medications Freeze If Left in Your Car?
Medications of both liquid and solid form can freeze in a very short time. It can happen anywhere between 30 minutes and 6 or 7 hours dependant on the medication and temperature outside.
What to Do If Medication Freezes in Your Car Overnight
If your liquid medication which is not safe to freeze happens to freeze accidentally in your vehicle overnight, follow these important steps.
- Inspect your medicine and establish if there has been any crystal formation.
- Rub it between your hands
- Check that there are no deposits in the bottom of the bottle
If your liquid medication starts to dissipate and will not shake up properly, then it’s likely unsafe to use, as there may be crystals you can’t see, and/or your dosage will be incorrect. The safest option is to not use your medication and contact your doctor or pharmacists as soon as possible.
What to Do If Your Medication Arrives Frozen
There are cases where your medicine may have frozen in transit. Make sure you get in touch with your Insurance company who will investigate it and refund you where necessary – assuming it’s actually covered!
The storage of both prescription and over the counter liquid medications – and also other types of medicines including medications in solid form, should be stored at the correct temperature. The overall advice is if you’re in any kind of doubt whatsoever that your medication may have been frozen by accident, throw them out and call your doctor or pharmacist.
If you wish to freeze medication for storage purposes, consult with your health care provider or pharmacist to check whether your particular medicine is suitable for deep freeze storage. If you are having trouble affording any of the medication you have been prescribed, contact us, or call us at 1-877-296-HOPE(4673) and speak to one of our representatives, we’d be happy to help.