Don’t Let Your Medication and FSA Dollars Expire

Don’t Let Your Medication and FSA Dollars Expire

I never realized that some of the over-the-counter, everyday medications we have in our homes come with an expiration date. That was quite the shock to me!! I thought they were good forever, but it turns out I was seriously wrong. For those that have an FSA or Flexible Savings Account for their healthcare should keep this in mind when they are faced with their FSA dollars expiring December 31. We here at HPFY can possibly give some clarity into which medications or over-the-counter first-aid products are FSA eligible for your dollars before they expire and disappear.

Do OTC Medications Really Expire?

Once we buy an over-the-counter (OTC) medication or ointment it’s often easy to forget that they don’t last forever. Whether it’s cold medicine or calamine lotion or even a cream or salve for itchy skin or a rash, they do have an expiration date. On a safety note, even though they say “over the counter” this does not mean that they should be left on the kitchen counter or within easy reach of small children. Children overdose every year on OTC medications, so keeping them in the medicine chest/cabinet is a good idea. Each of these over-the-counter medications has an expiration date on it and keeping medications past this date can mean the medicine in them can become less effective when they are truly needed the most. Expiration dates are scientifically based upon when the manufacturer can fully guarantee the full effectiveness, purity, and safety of an over-the-counter medication in a closed container. Some tips for storing your OTC medication include:

  • Keep OTC medication in dry area (cabinet, cupboard, or medicine box/chest) 
  • Store medication below 77° 
  • Keep medication in original packaging 
  • Avoid exposure to light, heat, or moisture

FSA OTC Medication to Watch

With all FSA plans, you lose your pretax dollars at the end of the year if they are not used. This is a great time to check the first-aid kit or medicine cabinet to see what FSA eligible over-the-counter medicines you may need to replace. Simply check the expiration date on these meds and be sure to use your FSA dollars to replace these every day OTC medications. Some eligible FSA medications can include:

  • Medline Acetaminophen Regular Strength Tablets

    Used to treat mild-to-moderate pain, this pain reliever can be used in conjunction with prescription opiates to treat moderate to severe pain and to reduce fever. Other uses can include reducing aches and pains associated with headaches, muscle aches, and arthritis.
  • McKesson Sunmark Cold and Cough Relief Strength Syrup

    Formulated to loosen phlegm and thin bronchial secretions, this cold and cough syrup provides relief from severe cold symptoms. It can help drain bronchial tubes and provide temporary relief from your cough due to minor throat and bronchial irritation. The alcohol free formula is safe for both adults and children.
  • Cardinal Health Bacitracin Ointment

    A common staple of the medicine chest or first aid kit is bacitracin to help prevent infection from minor cuts, scrapes, or burns. By inhibiting bacterial growth this ointment can help prevent a little injury from becoming a major issue down the road. This makes it great for home care, first-aid kits, and any clinical setting.
  • Blue Lizard Australian Baby Sunscreen Lotion with SPF 30+

    Designed for delicate and sensitive skin, this gentle mineral-based formula provides 40 minute water and sweat resistance without fragrances or harsh chemicals. There is nothing worse than a sunburned child!! It is dermatologist recommended for 20 years and provides protection from UVA/UVB rays with active ingredients zinc oxide (10%) and titanium oxide (5%).
  • Johnson & Johnson Zyrtec Allergy Relief Antihistamine Tablet

    This allergy relief medication effectively provides 24 hours relief from symptoms of hay fever and respiratory allergies such as runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes as well as treating indoor allergies associated with dust, mold, and pet dander. Suitable for those aged 6 or older, one 10 mg tablet once daily can start providing relief within one hour.
  • Alka-Seltzer Antacid & Pain Relief Medicine

    Formulated to provide fast relief from heartburn, headaches, and acid indigestion these individually packaged tablets can give relief from body aches and pains. Each 2 pack is designed for individual use and can be used to refill first aid stations and kits.
  • Vicks VapoRub

    A topical cough medicine with medicated vapors that can simply and easily give cough relief especially for children (age 2 and older). It can also be great for diabetics who want to avoid oral cough medicines that contain sugar. This topical medicine contains synthetic camphor (4.8%), eucalyptus oil (1.2 %), and menthol (2.6%).
  • Rolaids Ultra Strength Antacid Softchews

    By neutralizing 100 times their weight in stomach acid, these tasty soft chews are a fun way to relieve every day digestive issues. Strawberry flavored, they can be your ultimate acid neutralizing heartburn relief medicine, sour stomach, or acid indigestion.
  • Advil Sinus Congestion & Pain

    For fast and effective relief from sinus pressure and congestion associated with colds, these tablets combine the speed/strength of Advil with a nasal decongestant to reopen your airways by constricting the blood vessels in your nose and sinuses. Each tablet contains ibuprofen (200 mg) and phenylephrine HCl (10 mg).
  • MedPride Hydrocortisone Cream

    This cream gives temporary relief from minor skin irritations associated with insect bites, poison ivy, oak, and sumac. It can also help with rashes and issues with eczema or allergies due to soaps and detergents.

It is critically important that any expired medication gets disposed of properly and not just willy-nilly where it could be accidentally ingested by small children or pets. The FDA offers guidelines for how to properly dispose of unused medication that could be expired. Visit the FDA website at:

Often we take the over-the-counter medicines that we keep in our medicine cabinets or first-aid kits for granted. We just assume that they are good and effective when we need them and that time doesn’t have any negative effect on them. Turns out over time they can lose their efficacy and not provide the proper relief we need from simple, everyday ailments. Be sure to check your medicine cabinet annually and if anything needs replacing, use your FSA dollars wisely to replenish your stock pile before forfeiting any annual FSA contributions.


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