Can you use medications past their expiration date?

By Jeanine Bradley, RPh, Cert. MTM, Ch Herbalist

How important is the expiration date on your medication bottle?  A lot of us will look at expiration dates on food as more of a suggestion than a rule. If it passes the sniff test and there’s no visible mold growth, it’s fine, right? Maybe not. But how do expiration dates apply to medications when the pills that have spent years in your cupboard look the same as the ones fresh from the store?

How do medications expire?

Most medications are made up of active and inactive components. The inactive parts are, in part, meant to stabilize the active components. The active parts can be complex and sometimes unstable, meaning that with time and exposure to outside factors such as heat, light, or water, they’ll break down and no longer be able to perform the job they’re designed to do.  This process happens over time, meaning that the medication will gradually lose active components and become less and less effective.

What does the expiration date mean?

The expiration date is the date by which the manufacturer can still guarantee the full potency and safety of the drug. These tend to be conservative estimates to be safe as there is evidence that a lot of medications will still be good months to several years past their posted expiration date. For proper storage, keep your medications away from heat, light, and humidity. Any bathroom that has a shower is generally not a good place to keep your medications.

Are expired medications safe to take?

Depending on the medication, it could be.  There are very few products currently on the market that produce actively harmful chemicals when they start to degrade.  Of course, as mentioned, medications get less effective as they degrade, and not getting the full dose can be dangerous for some medications that require a specific amount to be in the body. For example, if the medication is for a potentially serious medical condition such as a blood thinner for stroke prevention, you could be putting your life in danger by taking expired medication.  If you find yourself questioning whether a medication would be safe to take expired, it’s probably best to play it safe and dispose of it or ask your pharmacist.

Resource: Living Well by Seniors Sunset Times

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Vagus Nerve Stimulation at The Ear Strengthens Communication Between Stomach and Brain

The finding might open up new avenues to treat eating disorders and obesity.


Editorial Director;

New research from the University Hospitals of Tübingen and Bonn has shown for the first time that non-invasive stimulation of the vagus nerve can strengthen the communication between the stomach and the brain, opening up new therapeutic avenues for various disorders and human health

The vagus nerve is considered one of the most complex cranial nerves in our central nervous system because of its central role in human behavior, connecting various bodily signals with the brain in a “superhighway” of connectivity. This nerve is responsible for regulating internal organ functions such as heart rate, respiratory rate, and digestion. 

For example, the vagus nerve signals to the brain when the stomach is empty to help support the directive search for food to eat. The nerve plays a central role in digestive processes and, therefore, the communication relayed via this nerve pathway has important implications for human health. 

“We showed for the first time that electrical stimulation strengthens the coupling between signals from the stomach and the brain – and we can do it within a few minutes,” said Professor Nils Kroemer.

The researchers investigated 31 subjects who underwent vagus nerve stimulation at the ear while simultaneously receiving functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to record brain activation. At the same time, electrogastrogram recordings were made over their stomach regions to record signals from the digestive tract. They found that vagus nerve stimulation increased coupling between the stomach and brain and it was widespread, especially in areas of the brain that normally connect more strongly with the stomach before the stimulation was applied.

“We observed that vagus nerve stimulation increased coupling with signals from the stomach in the brainstem and midbrain,” explained Kroemer. “These regions are important because they are the first targets of the vagus nerve in the brain. Changes in the midbrain may already mediate our actions.” 

The researchers say the new discovery could open up new therapeutic avenues for depression, obesity, and eating disorders in the future. The findings are reported in the journal Brain Stimulation

Ways To Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve for Better Physical and Mental Health

Thinking about how to come out of the traps of stress, anxiety, and depression?  Well, don’t feel trapped anymore. A new study found that stimulating the vagus nerve helps in better management of your physical and mental health. Read on to know how the vagus nerve works so that you can better deal with your nervous system.

Stress and anxiety initiate an inflammatory response in our bodies. If untreated it can lead to the development and persistence of many diseases. Other than using medications, the best way to combat inflammatory conditions (including all autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis, autoimmune thyroid conditions, lupus, and more) is to engage the vagus nerve and improve your vagal tone. 

“By developing an understanding of the workings of your vagus nerve, you may find it possible to work with your nervous system rather than feel trapped when it works against you.”

— Dr. Arielle Schwartz, Clinical Psychologist


The word “vagus” means “to wander” in Latin, which accurately represents the vagus nerve, the longest nerve in our body that extends from the cerebellum and brainstem and wanders all over the body and branches multiple times and reaches various organs like the pharynx, larynx, heart, esophagus, stomach, gut, lungs, liver, spleen, and pancreas.

The activity of the vagus nerve is known as vagal tone.

The Vagus nerve is an important part of the parasympathetic nervous system that is responsible for “rest and digestion”, which is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system that is responsible for “fight or flight”. The Vagus nerve is a key player in speech, taste, swallowing, respiration, heart function, digestion, and excretion. It communicates with different organs with the help of neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and hormones. Any damage to the nerve can hamper all physiological activities.

What causes vagus nerve damage?

Excessive stress or prolonged use of certain medications disrupts the vagus nerve. Inflammation and infections are other causes of poor vagal tone or functioning. This results in sleep problems, digestive issues, difficulty in breathing, lung and skin problems.

Signs of underperforming vagus nerve

  • Reflux
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight gain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Memory loss
  • Temperature dysregulation
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Gastroparesis
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Headaches
  • Psychosis
  • Insomnia

Vagal Tone

Various biological processes represent the activity of the vagus nerve. An increase in vagal tone activates the parasympathetic nervous system. An increase in heart rate during inhalation and a decrease in heart rate during exhalation represent a healthy vagal tone. Bigger the difference between inhalation heart rate and exhalation heart rate, the higher the vagal tone. 

Why is the vagus nerve and vagal tone important for physical and mental health?

With poor vagal tone, the body needs more time to relax and perform primary functions as the movement of wastes via the GI tract due to bacterial overgrowth. Bad gut microbes in turn influence the activity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis via the vagus nerve. The disturbed HPA can affect neuronal cellular activity in the brain and lead to inflammation and neurodegeneration. As mentioned earlier, the vagus nerve wanders all over the body so if it is not working well, multiple functions are affected.

This nerve influences respiratory rate, heart rate, digestive function, all of which can greatly impact your mental health. But, the most important thing is the “tone” of the vagus nerve.  According to a publication by Jordan Fallis, there is a positive feedback loop between high vagal tone, positive emotions, positive social connections, and good physical health.

People with a high vagal tone tend to have strong social connections, and experience positive emotions, and better physical health. On the other hand, people with low vagal tone experience depression, loneliness, negative feelings, and heart attacks.

Vagus nerve is also associated with brain health and gut health. You can consider vagal tone index as your body’s gut feeling that sends signals to the brain that leads to feedback loop of more positive emotions or negative emotions. Thus, the vagus nerve is important for both physical and mental health.

Our body’s immune system releases some signals called cytokines, which determine the vagal tone index. So, stimulating the vagus nerve can help treat inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, without the use of pharmaceutical drugs.

Barbara Fredrickson and Bethany Kok of the University of North Carolina used a loving-kindness meditation (LKM) technique to investigate if positive emotions, robust social connections, and physical health influence one another in a self-sustaining upward spiral dynamic and feedback loop. The technique helped the participants become better at self-generating positive emotions and making close-knit human bonds. The study results revealed an increase in vagal tone in participants.

Stimulating the vagus nerve and increasing the vagal tone can help treat different brain and mental health conditions:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Tinnitus
  • Alcohol addiction
  • Autism
  • Migraines
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Poor memory
  • Traumatic brain
  • Injury
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

Benefits of having a high vagal tone:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Improves blood-sugar regulation
  • Reduce migraines and headaches
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Better mood
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Lower risk of heart stroke
  • Improves digestion
  • Fosters positive emotions
  • Improves mental well-being

How Does Vagus Nerve Stimulation Reduce Inflammation?

The Vagus nerve reads the gut microbiome and initiates a mechanism to modulate inflammation based on whether or not it detects pathogenic versus non-pathogenic organisms. That’s how a gut microbiome can influence your mood, stress level, and overall inflammation.

Ways To Increase Vagal Tone:

Diaphragmatic breathing

This technique stimulates the vagus nerve and helps mitigate stress and anxiety. You can also try this breathing technique before bed to have a good night sleep. Here are simple steps to follow:

  • Lay down on your back
  • Elevate your legs
  • Make sure your knees are at 90 degrees (on a box or bench)
  • Breathe slowly, take 10-20 slow breaths
  • Put one hand on your upper chest and other hand over your belly button
  • Inhale so that your lower hand on belly is moving upward
  • If you see only upper hand is moving upon inhaling, practice filling your belly with air 

Cold exposure

Exposure to cold boosts parasympathetic activity and activates cholinergic neurons through the vagus nerve, which increases vagal tone. Here are few quick tips to do:

  • You can splash cold water on your face 10–20 times a day
  • Take a shower with a quick 10-second blast of cold or hot-cold contrast showers
  • Walk a small distance in winters in a t-shirt and shorts.

Chanting mantras, singing or gargling

The Vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords, so it is stimulated by – singing, humming, gargling, and chanting mantras. Also, these activities have a biologically soothing effect. Start humming your favorite tune when cooking or gardening or taking shower.

Yoga and meditation

Yoga and meditation are two important relaxation techniques and are well known to improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Both practices stimulate the vagus nerve and vagal tone. Daily yoga increases gastric motility, which is important for the easy movement of food through the digestive tract. Yoga does this by stimulating the vagus nerve. Daily meditation promotes feelings of goodwill towards yourself. This technique reduces sympathetic “fight or flight” activity and increases vagal modulation.

Improve social connections

Staying connected with friends and neighbors increases social support, which evokes positive emotions and increases vagal tone. Reach out to your friends no matter in which part of the world they are and laugh out loud. Laughter increases heart rate variability.  Social connection and stable support improve physical and mental health.  

Maintain healthy gut

Because gut microorganisms can activate the vagus nerve, through a positive feedback loop. Three things are important to maintain a healthy gut:

  • Cut sugar from your diet
  • Consume plenty of fiber rich food
  • Eat fermented foods or a probiotic

Research shows that excessive sugar is associated with chronic inflammation of the GI tract mucosal lining that gives easy access to pathogens, which further perpetuate inflammatory signals to the brain. So, nix sugar from your diet and eat more fiber.

Daily intake of 25-plus grams of fiber improves bowel movement and allows your body to eliminate on a daily rhythm. When you poop daily, there is less stagnation of inflammatory food residues in the colon and bad bacteria that impairs brain and gut communication. Besides fiber, daily intake of probiotics is necessary to maintain optimal gut-brain signaling and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. 


Massages like foot massages (reflexology) can increase the vagal activity and vagal tone, and decrease the “fight or flight” sympathetic response.


This is the best brain health booster. You don’t need to build six-pack abs! Simple weight lifting (1-4 times per week), sprints (1-2 times per week), and brisk walks (30-60 minutes a day) are enough to – stimulate the vagus nerve. You can also choose your favorite sport so that you will stick with it consistently. If you are obese, then you must adopt sustainable practices for weight loss. Because obesity and gut inflammation can disturb vagal activity. Also, negatively affect the connection between the brain and the GI tract. Besides exercises, follow Mediterranean diet for better results.

Add omega-3 to your diet

You must eat an omega-3 rich diet because your body cannot produce it naturally. Avocados, salmon, walnuts, olive oil and flaxseeds are some of the food sources of omega-3. Studies showed that omega-3 fatty acids help in the proper functioning of your brain and nervous system and increase vagal tone and vagal activity. Having high omega-3 improves mental well-being, heart health and lowers inflammation.

The Takeaway

Vagus nerve is a wonderful drug-free alternative for treating inflammatory response, low mood, depression and more. Isn’t it? Stimulating vagal activity offers significant health advantages and is supported by a bulk of studies. Unlike taking drugs, it won’t burn your pocket plus fewer side effects. Increase your vagal tone and you will gain the power to control your body and mind. By stimulating the vagus nerve you can signal your body to relax, which can improve your mood and wellbeing. However, there is a need for more trials for testing if vagus nerve stimulation can improve the lives of other people suffering from other diseases including Parkinson’s, Crohn’s, and Alzheimer’s.



A private study conducted by Milliman revealed that between 44% and 65% of all ER episodes could’ve been taken care of in an urgent care clinic. Unfortunately, many people simply aren’t aware of what urgent care is, and where the centers are located.


For any parent, it is important to know when your child needs emergency services, or if it is okay to take them to urgent care. Most of the time you’ll likely be surprised to find that urgent care offers more than enough services to treat your child or yourself. Some of those services include:

  • Minor Fractures
  • Minor Cuts
  • Colds
  • Physical Exams
  • Certain Treatments

When asking “what can urgent care do?” turn that question around and ask yourself: Is this situation life-threatening? If the answer is no, then the chances are an urgent care clinic near you can help.

What’s the closest urgent care to my location?
If you have just moved, or you aren’t really sure where the nearest family urgent care center is located, make obtaining this information a priority. Knowing where the closest urgent care center is can save you time, money, and a trip to the hospital. It is always good to be prepared, especially when it concerns your health.

What’s the point?
The purpose of urgent care clinics is to decentralize medicine, making it less expensive, and more accessible, and reduce the strain of overpopulation that hospitals face every day. Due to the lack of primary care physician support during all too many weekly hours, and the impossibly high prices and wait times in hospitals, urgent care formed from the desire to help those who needed it but weren’t sick enough to be in a hospital.

The best urgent care center near you is one of the most important buildings to locate when you move to a new area.

Resource: By Accelerated Urgent Care | January 16, 2018

Unclog Overcrowded Hospitals


If you are in need of medical treatment but are unsure what warrants a hospital visit, consider an urgent care center. Hospitals can be quite crowded and often take a long time to provide care for anyone not in immediate need of medical help. In fact, Milliman conducted a private study of Emergency Room visits and found that 44-65% could’ve been attended to at an urgent care clinic instead. That means those patients could have been treated faster and paid less for their care.

While local hospitals are essential to community health care, the fact that many people use them for non-life-threatening situations results in crowded waiting rooms and slower treatment for everybody. Especially for busy parents with sick kids, family urgent care can be a welcome alternative.

Let’s take a look at what family urgent care centers can do for you.

What Can Be Treated at an Urgent Care Center?

  • Fevers that do not present with a rash are easily treated by these clinics.
  • Vomiting, unless it is the result of accidental overdose or ingestion of a known toxic chemical, is manageable at an urgent care facility.
  • Minor lacerations, sprained wrists, or other bodily harm that presents no immediate danger to your life.
  • Painful urination, whether caused by kidney stones or an STI, is a symptom easily attended to at an urgent care near you.

These are just a few of the many things that you can skip the local hospital for in favor of urgent care. If your primary care physician or pediatrician’s office is closed but you need treatment, your best bet is to go to a family urgent care facility.

Use this rule of thumb: if you would go to your doctor’s office for the medical condition you have now, go to urgent care. If you are experiencing a medical condition that you think requires the service only a local hospital can provide, then don’t hesitate. If you are ever in doubt, choose a hospital.

However, it is best to be mindful of others when going to the hospital. Life and death situations happen every day, and when hospitals are clogged with patients that should instead be at an urgent care facility, it makes the hospital staff even more strained. Try, whenever your life isn’t in danger, to use urgent care facilities for after-hours treatment and care.

Urgent Care Description

Urgent Care Description

For an ailment or injury that cannot wait to be seen by your primary care doctor but is not serious enough to have to go into an emergency room.

Mount Sinai has a great description: Should the cut on your finger or the pain in your chest send you to the emergency room or an urgent care center? It’s difficult to be sure. So, we’re making matters easy by providing this clear-cut description of where to go for the care you need. Life-threatening emergencies, such as a heart attack or serious head injury, require a visit to the emergency department, also called the emergency room (ER). An illness or injury that does not appear to be life-threatening but can’t wait until the next day should be treated at an urgent care center. Urgent care centers provide easy access to quality healthcare for the times when your primary care physician’s offices are closed. Follow the link above to continue reading their article.

Ocean Shores Urgent Care

Services offered will be:

Abscess Drainage, Allergic Reactions, Altered mental status, Anemia, Asthma, Broken Bone, Bronchiolitis, Chest Cold, Cough, Dehydration, Diarrhea, Difficulty breathing, Dizziness, Ear Ache, Fever, Foreign Body Removal, Head Cold, Headaches, Hemorrhoids, Insects bites & stings, Non Life-threatening burns, Nose Bleed, Oxygen Treatment, Personal Injury, Pink Eye, Rash, Side Effects from Medication, Sinus Infection, Sore Throat, Sprains, Stitches, Stomach (Abdominal) Pain, UTI, Vomiting, or Wheezing.

In-Home Care

Home Health Services will also be offered. For patients who are unable to get to the facility, a doctor will go to your home. This service will be on a “first requested first served” basis and may require an appointment which will be scheduled within 48 hours of the request.

Services NOT offered will be:

Amputation of a body part, Blindness, Cataracts, Deadly allergic reactions such as swelling or inability to swallow, Dentistry, Diabetic Management, Electrical shock, Immunizations, Kidney Dialysis, Major head injury including loss of consciousness, Near drowning episodes, OB-GYN, Open fractures where bone penetrates the skin, Retinal Eye Care, Seizures, Severe choking: cannot talk or breathe, Signs of a stroke: incomprehensible speaking, weakness in one arm, double vision, Sudden bleeding. Symptoms of a heart attack: chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and Vaccines.

Note: Some of these may be treated at urgent care depending on the evaluation of the EMTs.

Severe cases of common cold-causing rhinovirus, enterovirus seen in kids

CHICAGO (CBS) — For healthy adults, rhinoviruses and enteroviruses infections are among the causes of the common cold – but for children, the symptoms can be severe.

Doctors say they have been seeing an uptick in cases now that kids are back in school. CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar spoke to one father who said he saw his son struggle to breathe.

“That struggling; that shortness of breath; the (gasping) that you would possibly hear if you were having a panic attack or something like that as an adult,” said Andy Beckman.

In recent weeks, each breath was a struggle for Beckman’s young son, Ford Beckman. His dad took the 18-month-old to an Indiana hospital.

“Then they came back and said it was rhinovirus – and then they said rhinovirus as if I knew what that was,” Beckman said.

Ford would spend the next three nights hooked up to oxygen and other equipment while battling rhinovirus — a category of viruses that is among those that cause the common cold.

Fever, congestion, sneezing, coughing, and sore throat are just some of the symptoms.

“Anytime you see your child is hooked up to machines that beep on a regular basis, you have some – that’s when I start to question, ‘What do you mean it’s just a common cold?'” Beckman said.

Dr. Natalie Lambajian-Drummond runs her own pediatric clinic in Yorkville, Whole Child Pediatrics.

Lambajian-Drummond: “What’s been interesting is that we have had kind of a potpourri of viruses.”

De Mar: And you have had to admit kids to the hospital?

Lambajian-Drummond: “I have. I even had to admit one by ambulance. I don’t typically call ambulances for respiratory viruses in August.”

Lambajian-Drummond says young kids – especially during the era of COVID mitigations and quarantines – simply haven’t built up their immune systems. In some cases, this makes the common cold or respiratory virus more severe.

“I would say the children that are under 5 are kind of the group to watch,” Lambajian-Drummond said. “A lot of the younger kids we’re seeing them have been having a lot more severe courses when they get these viruses.”

As for Ford, he was sent home from the hospital in style. And his dad wants other parents to find comfort in his experience.

“Until it happens to you, it doesn’t resonate,” Beckman said. “But until you know you’re not the only one, then you do feel a little scared.”

A doctor at Lurie Children’s Hospital said enterovirus is more common this time of year and is similar to rhinovirus, but there isn’t a test to distinguish between the two. Treatment for these viruses focuses on minimizing systems and discomfort. 

Charlie De Mar

Charlie De Mar is an Emmy Award-winning reporter for CBS2.

First published on September 7, 2022 / 11:05 PM