Medicine in Your Bug Out Bag or First Aid Kit

Someone recently said,

“I found myself in a situation to use my (Bug-Out-Bag RX) for a few days, and they (RX) had lost their potency.”

When I checked with my pharmacist she said, ‘Never leave blood pressure pills or heart/nerve pills in a hot car as the heat will nullify the effect within just a few hours’.

“If I did it, someone else might…”

Many people may not realize that heat is an enemy of so many things, including medications.

Temperatures in a car can rapidly rise well above 100-degrees-F while parked in the sun. If you leave a B.O.B. or a First Aid Kit in your vehicle which contain medications (RX or over-the-counter) be aware that HEAT can damage them and render them useless.

Never take any medication that has changed color or consistency, regardless of the expiration date. Check also for an unusual odor. Discard pills that stick together, are chipped or are harder or softer than normal.

I have read that No drug should be exposed to temperatures higher than 86 degrees. Pharmaceutical manufacturers recommend most of their products be stored at a controlled room temperature of 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the range in which manufacturers guarantee product integrity.

The inside of a vehicle in the sun (including the trunk) will get HOT real FAST. In the summer – well into the 100’s. Be advised.

Temperature extremes can be minimized by storing these items within an ice chest on hot or cold days. Even without ice, it buffers the temperature extremes throughout the 24 hr high/low cycle.

Humidity and light are also major enemies of meds. That is why they should never be stored in a bathroom. If you are going to store tablets long term then store in a cool dark place.

The best practice for this situation (bug out bag or First Aid Kit) is to ROTATE your medications periodically.


  1. Thanks for the reminder on this. I’ve actually thought of this along with the food I have. I have been thinking of keeping these items in a separate insulated box that I was thinking of making out of some 2″ ridged insulation that I just happen to have :-) and bring it inside with me at home to cool off again. Maybe even putting it in the refrigerator. I would think this would help extend the life quite a bit.

  2. If you, or yours, use Insulin you might look into a way to keep it cool. Amazon has a number of ways to do so that don’t require electricity. I think that I selected FRIO as a brand for my mother. Basically a small swamp(evaporative) cooler. A pouch.

  3. I never liked the idea of keeping medicines in the car. I bought a couple of small travel size containers of OTC medicines and just keep them in my purse. When they get used up, I refill them from our bigger bottles that we keep on hand. I also keep prescription in my purse. Blister packs keep well in my purse as well although a little pricey. If I ever need to use my Get Home bag, I can always transfer the small containers to my back pack.

      1. And you said our. We now know she has a purse and another person, perhaps a hubby. Or she is a man, with a man purse, and another person. So, could be woman or a man, with a significant other, probably. This narrows it down a lot.

        1. Actually, I said you and yours. Must be the Martians playing with your reception.

  4. For those of us who commute to work, remember that our vehicle may well serve method of getting back home, or the location of the Get Home Bag, should we need to use 2 legs. I always keep a well stocked, well organized first aid kit in my car along with my other survival gear. Some items that should not be overlooked include wound dressings. I also have and Israeli battle bandage for penetrating wounds. If the situation is dire enough that you can’t take your car, trauma is going to be a likely injury.

    As for meds, there is variable data regarding which meds will tolerate heat. One that most certainly will not is nitroglycerine. This rapidly loses effectiveness with heat, even if it is carried in a pocket close to the body, like in a pants pocket. If someone is on chronic daily medications, I like the idea of storing a supply for several days in a small ice box to protect against extreme heat and cold. Then make a schedule to rotate it once a quarter. For those who have trouble remembering this, one way to remember is to rotate it at the end of each major sports season (e.g. after the superbowl, march madness, Stanley cup, and world series)

    1. For a person that has heart problems, how would you keep nitro with you at all times if you don’t carry it in your pocket? Don’t stay in house or in car, usually outside doing what ever. Have been carrying in pants pocket for 12 years now, but haven’t had to use them yet. Appreciate any realistic suggestions.

      1. I’m going to assume that you mean the pills that you put under your tongue.

        From what I was told they are not heat sensitive. They *do* degrade quickly once the bottle is opened.

        1. NTG SL tablets are sensitive to everything heat, moisture and esp light. They can be rendered inert within minutes (moisture, they dissolve within seconds) to hours (light /heat). Or so I have been taught for the last 25 25 years in nursing school and working as a RN. They also have a very short exp date because of their instability. NTG is actually the most unstable drug given today. Now the NTG long acting capsules are not as unstable but still have to be kept in a cool, dark, dry environment. They just do not degrade as quickly.

      2. You can get a container that hangs from a chain around your neck to carry NTG in. It is insulated and usually made of stainless steel. That keeps them in the dark and cooler than in the brown glass bottle and in your pocket.

        1. I bought one of those for my husband. I turned it into a keychain with a clip to hang it on his beltloop, so he doesn’t carry it in his pocket. It’s also easier to get to when he needs it.

  5. Tammy’s idea is a great one. Remember to rotate it regularly. Yearly is recommended, but more frequently if it is exposed to heat or light. One idea that I hadn’t considered before for people who have cardiac conditions and need to carry meds…. If SHTF and we lose access to our state of the art, rapid response medical teams, perhaps carrying chewable aspirin (as well as NTG, for as long as it is effective) is the ticket. Id have to research how long chewable aspirin is effective after the expiration…. but i would suspect it is much longer than NTG will ever be.

  6. Ken, there is an idea for articles…. so much of what we do, like carrying NTG but not chewable aspirin, is predicated on the expectation that 911 will be there in 15 minutes or less. I wonder how many habits and myths have been created by our expectation and reliance upon the system. Its a new angle I will ponder, but I’d like to see what others have come up with. :)

  7. I used to worry about this very problem when I was dependent on several drugs to get through each day. I had severe allergies, eczema, heart problems and a host of other issues.

    I firmly believe that the best preparation for a disaster is to be in as good physical health as possible, and this includes eliminating or minimizing the need for prescriptions.

    I realize that not everyone will be able to do this, but through homeopathy and nutrition I was able to eliminate my need for drugs entirely. I feel much better now in my 60’s than I ever did in my 30’s.

    Not only was I able to do it, but I have watched and helped others to do the same.

    In a societal-collapse-type scenario, having a serious drug dependency is a huge liability.

    Yes, keep the necessities in your bug-out-bag for now, but in the meantime consider learning the natural methods of healing that may help you get to a state of health where you no longer need these medicines, and can use that valuable bug-out-bag space for something else, and not have to worry anymore about expiration dates or spoilage.

    1. How did you learn this? My main concerns are uterine fibroids and Hashimoto’s Disease. I take synthetic hormones for these, but I am trying to learn as much as I can about natural remedies. In a life or death situation that may be critical. Thanks In advance.

  8. As a pharmacy technician, I can attest to this. Extreme temperature fluctuations can reduce the effectiveness of a majority of medication. As long as you can keep them in a controlled environment they can last well past the expiration date on the bottle.

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