The Well-Stocked Medicine Cabinet

Health, Home & Family
on July 1, 2001

Its difficult to anticipate every illness and home emergency, but a well-stocked home medicine cabinet prepares you for most of lifes bumps and scrapes.

There is no substitute for a good relationship with your doctor or health-care professional, but it is possible to treat many minor ailments at home; you just need the right supplies, says pharmacist Kent Nelson.

Most American families keep about 25 kinds of medications in their medicine cabinet, studies show. Necessary items, says the Medicine Cabinet Safety Campaign, sponsored by the American Pharmaceutical Association, should include:

  • Pain medication such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin.
  • An oral thermometer to monitor fever and a rectal thermometer if you have a small child.
  • Sleep aids for insomnia.
  • Syrup of ipecac to induce vomiting in case of poisoning.
  • Allergy relief, including antihistamines, sinus medication, and eye drops.
  • Anti-itch cream such as hydrocortisone.
  • Cold and flu medicine not containing phenylpropanolamine (PPA). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a public health advisory because PPA is linked to stroke risk. Ask your pharmacist for more information about such medications.
  • Antacids for heartburn and anti-nausea medication.
  • Anti-diarrhea medication and laxatives for constipation.
  • A first-aid kit. This should include bandages, adhesive tape, antibiotic ointment, a first-aid manual, and antiseptics such as hydrogen peroxide. Note: hydrogen peroxide oxidizes into water when exposed to light, so keep it in its original container, which resists sunlight.
  • Adhere to the Three Rs of medicine cabinet safety: review, remove, and restock. Dont keep prescriptions past their expiration dates, and throw out out any medications that have a noticeable change in color, form, or smell. The same applies if the label or package instructions are missing or illegible.

Remember to flush medications instead of throwing them in the garbage where children can find them.