24 answers

Do Antibiotics Really Go Bad After 10 Days?

Do you really have to throw out antibiotics after 10 days or do they just tell us that so we don't over medicate. I don't want to give my kids antibiotics if they don't need them, but sometimes you just know they need one and can't afford to go to the doctor and have an antibiotc leftover from last time.

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So What Happened?™

Just wanted everyone to know that I do give them the correct dose and for the full 10 days, and yes I did have some leftover on one antibiotic that was given. I believe the pharmacy gave me the same amount for both kids but my daughter only got half the dose, therefore, I had some leftover. I've never given them any antibiotics without the doctor prescribing it for them. And I know that one AB works for one sickness and not for another. I was just curious about whether they really go bad. Also, we have a high deductible and when you have 2 kids who both get sick, the doctor bill is really high. And I have colloidal silver and it seemed to keep them from getting sick at first, but now it doesn't seem to work anymore. Thanks for the great responses!

More Answers

Typically, if it is a liquid antibiotic, the solid (powder) form was mixed with the liquid form prior to dispensing it to the patient/customer. The reason this is done is to decrease the breakdown of the active ingredient. Once the mixture is made, the stability of the product (ie, active ingredients) will begin to break down at a certain rate. Drug development chemists have already determined this breakdown rate and contribute this input during the development process. My guess is that not too long after the 10 days, the active ingredient is no longer effective and you might be administering a bad substitute of breakdown products or simply an ineffective drug.

4 moms found this helpful

EDIT: I understand leftovers with half dose, since some meds they can only give you a full bottle of. In that case, throw out the extra, because the meds break down and aren't as effective after a couple of weeks. I print out the list of covered prescriptions from my insurance company as well as the list of $4 medications from walmart and if possible, I try to have the doctor prescribe a lower-cost alternative. Walmart has amoxicillin for $4, but it's not always the best choice, so sometimes I do end up with a pricier medication. My mom was a stay at home mom with five kids and we never re-used medications, because even with some leftover, there wont be enough for a full dose for the full length of time.

If you are following the dispensing instructions, you should not have any leftover antibiotics. If you routinely have leftovers, then you are either missing doses, not giving the correct amount, or not giving the medication for the prescribed number of days.

I realize that with experience, some people can tell when their child will need an antibiotic. However, unless you're a doctor or an expert in pathology, just giving your child an antibiotic that you have laying around can do more harm than good because not all germs respond to just any antibiotic. Antibiotics are a formulation, and formulations break down over time, some more quickly than others. I wouldn't keep any medication past the expiration date, and with antibiotics, there shouldn't be any left to keep.

Just because the doctor prescribed amoxicillin for the last ear infection doesn't mean that s/he won't prescribe zithromax or something else for the next one, based on how much fluid is in the ear and how inflammed it is. Just because the doctor prescribed zithromax for the last respiratory infection doesn't mean s/he will prescribe it again. Germs become immune to antibiotics if they are given too frequently.

I am a single mom and understand money being tight. It seems my son always gets sick when there is $30 in the bank and a week or more until payday. I keep a low limit, low interest credit card for emergency use for this kind of thing - to pay the copays for the doctor visit and medications. If the medication cost is an issue consider filling them at Target or Walmart - they both have low-cost prescriptions, with many commonly prescribed drugs around $4. If the unexpected cost of a doctor visit is the issue, then try putting aside ten dollars a month just for that purpose and only use those funds towards unexpected doctor visits.

There have been many times that my own mother knew I needed an antibiotic (she had nursing training) but took me to the doctor so that the doctor could decide which antibiotic I needed. I leave it upto my son's doctor to decide whether he needs antibiotics - and sometimes he doesn't, because antibiotics only treat bacteria, not a viral infection.

The bottom line is you shouldn't have any leftover antibiotics to be worrying about using. Not giving the medication as often and for as long as prescribed can actually make the bacteria stronger and resistant to antibiotics. Make sure you are giving the dosage properly. Lastly, my mom gave me this piece of advice regarding food in the fridge but it works in the medicine cabinet too:


3 moms found this helpful

The antibiotics don't go bad. The older they are the less potent they can be. The drs. and you should not want to take antibiotics unless they are truly needed. The drs. have overprescribed them in the past and now we have all sorts of mutant bacteria that are resistant to the drugs. This is because people don't finish as prescribed, take as directed etc... In MO a couple of the grocery store chains have begun givings prescribed antibiotics for free. My grandmother has used this in the past. She was grateful for the free meds and took them all as directed. Sometimes the drs. office will have samples that they can give you if you let them know that you cannot afford the meds. The liquid meds do have a short life so you should not keep them much longer that what is prescribed.

2 moms found this helpful

Hi L.,

We use natural antibiotics because they don't break down the immune system like synthetic antibiotics do. I always keep them on hand if a need arises. It rarely does... but garlic tablets will keep and so will the liquid form if kept in the refridgerator. Collodial silver for more serious things will never go bad. It's simply a mineral and bacteria can not adhere to silver. Melaleuca oil will take care of an infection in a lot of cases as well.



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Antibiotics in pill form do not expire right away. Antibiotics in liquid form, like you give to children, expire after 10 days. Leave it in the refrigerator and look at it after about 20 days. It will look and smell nasty.

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Actually the antibiotics that are reconstituted for children do go bad that fast. Also there is not enough for 2 full courses of antibiotics in the bottles. If you do not complete a full course you are more likely to make your child get a resistant strain of the bacteria making it harder and more expensive to treat your child. If you think your child needs antibiotics you should always take them in to get a new prescription.

2 moms found this helpful

I would really caution against giving a child medications without talking with your doctor. Antibiotics are often bacteria specific-- some work better with respiratory infections, some with strep, etc. Many childhood illnesses are also viral, and so antibiotics will do nothing for them. The problem is that now many bacteria are becoming antibiotic resistant, and overusing them worsens this problem. Your doctor would know best what to prescribe for what infection. He can also monitor the effectiveness of an antibiotic and change it if needed. A phone call to your pediatrician doesn't cost anything, and some pharmacies (Publix, for example) will give you antibiotics for free or a very reduced charge. If you explain to your physician your financial situation, he can direct you to some low-cost or no-cost options to get your child seen.

I am a mom of three girls -- ages 4 through 17 -- who works in health care.

2 moms found this helpful

My aunt is an RN, and should have known better, but a few years ago took some left over antibiotics for some issues she had - I think more than once. She ended up killing off the good bacteria in her gut, so the bad took over, and she nearly died in the hospital (toxic megacolon). They finally cut out much of her colon to save her life. Now she lives with the repurcussions for the rest of her life (issues from half her colon being gone) but she is glad to be alive. You don't want to mess around with antibiotics.

You might look at why your kids are sick so much. My kids are 3 and 6, and are hardly ever sick. The older one is in the habit of thoroughly washing his hands every time he uses the bathroom. We're still trying to train the younger one. Also, naturopathic physicians strongly believe in taking probiotics, as 70% of our immunity is in our gut (the good bacteria). My ND also recommended rubbing castor oil into my son's belly at night (clockwise) to increase his immunity.

I have recently discovered oil of oregano. If I or my kids start to have a runny nose, cough or ear ache, I give/take it and the issue goes away. I was ready to take my 3yo to the doctor recently because his ear started hurting in the night, but a dose then and a dose in the morning and it didn't bother him any more (I kept giving it to him for a few days).

Anyway, just a few things to think about. I've been trying to find better ways to keep us healthy.

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