What Should I do with Expired Inhalers?

Concept of health care and asthma. Inhaler on counter at pharmacy

When the public conversation discusses medications, including inhalers, the conversation often turns to the safe disposal of medications. This is very important, and you may not know how to get rid of your expired inhaler safely.

Expired inhalers must be taken to a local pharmacy, fire department, or police station to be disposed of properly. It is dangerous to throw inhalers in the garbage, and most drug take-back programs will not accept inhalers or liquid drugs. Most inhalers will have disposal instructions on the label.

When disposing of an expired inhaler, it is important that you know how to do it safely and correctly. Incorrectly disposing of an inhaler can be potentially deadly. Let’s dive a bit deeper into how you can insure that you dispose of your inhalers properly.

Safety Issues

Throwing expired inhalers away in the municipal trash or recycling is dangerous. Expired inhalers will often have medication left inside. Someone can easily take an inhaler from the garbage and misuse it, or a child could get ahold of it and play with it. The medication inside of an inhaler can also leak out and contaminate water, soil, etc. This can be very dangerous for both the people and animals in the area as well as the environment.

When thrown in the garbage, inhalers will often be compacted, punctured, or exposed to high levels of heat, compromising the integrity of their containers. Because the air inside of an inhaler is extremely compressed, there is a risk of explosion. The inhalers may also release greenhouse gases when broken open which are very harmful to the environment.

The bottom line is- do not throw inhalers in the garbage. Just throwing them away is dangerous for children, animals, adults, and the environment. Make sure to do your part not only by learning how to dispose of your inhaler properly but actually by disposing of it properly. When you dispose of medications like an inhaler properly, you are not only protecting yourself but others and the environment.

Disposing of an Inhaler

Girl suffering asthma attack reaching inhaler sitting on a couch in the living room at home

It is very important to dispose of expired inhalers correctly instead of throwing them in the garbage. Inhalers cannot be disposed of in medical waste disposal boxes for the same reason that they cannot be thrown in the garbage; they will not be safely disposed of if they are thrown away with other types of medications.

The agencies that participate in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day will also not accept inhalers, nor will they take needles, sharps, liquids, or illegal drugs. The locations at which you can dispose of an inhaler vary depending on your location.

Local Pharmacy

The best place to check first is your local pharmacy. Pharmacies will often take expired inhalers. Some pharmaceutical companies will host inhaler recycler programs, so you just need to return your expired inhaler when you get a new one. Ask the pharmacist whether or not they accept expired inhalers when you pick up the inhaler or get a new one.

Fire Departments and Police Stations

Fire departments and police stations will sometimes accept expired inhalers too. They will take your old inhaler and dispose of it safely and properly. Check your local fire department or police station website or call the station to ask.

It would be a good idea to do some research about where you can properly dispose of inhalers in your area and what the local laws are. Inhalers will often have instructions on them for where to dispose of inhalers and what to do before then.

Finding the right place to dispose of an inhaler can help you avoid causing the safety issues involved in throwing an inhaler away improperly. If you are unsure of where you can dispose of your inhaler, you can look at websites like this one to find a recycling center or collection center near you.

How to Tell if Your Inhaler is Expired

Usually, the expiration date for an inhaler is on the packaging and not the actual inhaler so it is a good idea to keep the box. You can also write down when your inhaler expires either on a note, on your phone, or even on the inhaler canister.

Most inhalers expire about a year after the prescription for them is filled so if you have no other way to tell when the inhaler expires, you could try calling your pharmacy and go off of the date they filled the prescription.

Inhalers may also expire more rapidly if they are not stored properly or given proper maintenance. To properly maintain your inhaler, you should rinse the mouthpiece under warm water and allow it to air dry every couple of days. The mouthpiece should also be wiped clean after each use. An inhaler should always be stored with the cap on to prevent dust and debris from getting inside.

To store an inhaler, you should keep it at room temperature. Temperatures lower than 59 degrees or higher than 86 degrees Fahrenheit, should be avoided so try not to leave your inhaler in the car during summer or winter. If you are traveling, you should put your inhaler in a plastic bag so it stays clean.

Using an Expired Inhaler

Inhalers expire because the medication inside of them passes its expiration date. When medication expires, that usually means that it isn’t going to function as well as it did before the expiration date. As time passes, the medication will become less and less effective.

Using an expired inhaler isn’t necessarily dangerous, but it won’t work as well. This can become dangerous if the medication doesn’t have the intended effect in an emergency. If your throat is closed up and the medication in your inhaler isn’t as effective as it needs to be, there could be deadly consequences.

Using an inhaler that is a few months expired won’t necessarily be harmful, but it isn’t recommended. It would be better to either use up all of the inhalers or replace it before the expiration date. However, if you are in an emergency situation and the only inhaler you have on hand is expired, it is better to use the expired one than none at all.

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