Stocking the medicine cabinet: 15 items you need to have on hand

Friday, August 3, 2012

The only thing worse than being sick (or having a sick child), is having to head to the store for a remedy. You know you'd really just rather be curled up on the couch in your PJs. Life is so much easier when you have a basic selection of over-the-counter medications on hand. We talked to nurse practitioner Bernita Bell with Midwest Family Care about what items you should keep stocked in your medicine cabinet:

1: A thermometer. "If you can't keep a child's temperature down, you need to be able to check that," Bell says.

2: Bandages -- either adhesive bandages or gauze and tape.

3: Disinfectant

4: Antibacterial ointment

5: Antifungal cream for athlete's foot, ringworm, etc.

6: Allergy medication. "Any kind of Claritin or Benadryl," Bell suggests.

7: Witch hazel. "It has a lot of good uses for rashes," Bell says. "Things like poison ivy and poison oak."

8: Muscle creams and muscle rubs.

9: Cotton swabs and tweezers.

10: Over-the-counter cough and cold medicine.

11: Antacids for heartburn.

12: Something for nausea, diarrhea.

13: Calibrated measuring cup. "This is especially useful for kids," Bell says. "You want to make sure they're getting an accurate measurement of medicine."

14: Over-the-counter pain relievers, like Tylenol, and ibuprofen for inflammation.

15: Anti-itch spray. "Always keep some," Bell says. "It's really good for bee stings, ticks and rashes. That really helps."

Medicine cabinet tips

Keep a list nearby

Remembering what needs to be replaced, replenished or refilled is a difficult task. Simplify the situation by keeping a piece of paper taped to the inside of the medicine cabinet. When you notice that something is running low, simply jot a reminder on the paper so you'll see it the next time you open the cabinet.

Toss expired items

When assessing the items in your medicine cabinet, take note of their expiration date. Properly dispose of outdated over-the-counter pills and prescribed medications. If you are unsure of what you should toss, check with a pharmacist. Purge personal care products that have changed in appearance, smell or texture. Products like toothpaste and deodorant that are beyond their shelf life may lose potency and effectiveness.

Stock up on seasonal must-haves

Each season poses different health hurdles. During winter, cold and flu medication should be nearby. Spring brings gardening, so have an effective, targeted pain solution in the cabinet to keep you going for hours. Summer brings more sunlight, so protect skin by stashing a strong sunscreen on your shelves. And no matter what the season, purchase only as much as you will use to avoid throwing out expired products next year.

Disposing of prescription drugs

There will be a National Prescription Drug Take Back Day sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency in October. In the meantime, here are tips to dispose of prescription medication:

Follow any specific disposal instructions on the drug label or patient information that accompanies the medication. DO NOT FLUSH any medication unless the instructions specifically say so.

Take drugs out of their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter. The medication will be less appealing to children and pets and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through your trash.

Put them in a sealable bag, empty can or other container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.

Before throwing out a medicine container, scratch out all identifying information on the prescription label to make it unreadable. This will help protect your identity and the privacy of your personal health information.

Do not give medications to friends. Doctors prescribe drugs based on a person's specific symptoms and medical history. A drug that works for you could be dangerous for someone else.

When in doubt about proper disposal, talk to your pharmacist to reduce the chance of unintentional use or overdose and illegal abuse.

Source: Drug Enforcement Administration