Medicine Cabinet Must-Haves

If you haven't taken a peek into your medicine cabinet lately, it might be time to take a look. Every home should have basic supplies to help with minor accidents or middle-of-the-night illnesses. A medicine cabinet should also have important phone numbers taped inside of the door to call in case of an emergency.


Using a Medicine Cabinet

Actually, the medicine cabinet in your bathroom is probably one of the worst places to store medications, whether the meds are prescription or over-the-counter (OTC). The heat and humidity in bathrooms are particularly hard on pills and capsules, which can break down more quickly after exposure to these elements. Your best bet is to store family medications in drawers or cabinets in a cool dry place away from heat and moisture and away from curious little hands.

Storing Medications

Store your meds in their original containers so that you will know when the drugs have expired or are coming close to their expiration dates. Make sure that the containers are closed tightly to protect the medications from moisture. This will also help prevent young children from exploring the contents of the containers. In addition, throw away the cotton that is inside the containers when you purchase the medications. The cotton can hold moisture, leading to damaged meds.
Medicine Cabinet Must-Haves

If you have children, one of the most essential ingredients of a medicine cabinet is assorted sizes of bandage strips. Depending on your kids' ages, the more colorful the bandage strips are, the better the treatment may be. A carefully placed bandage strip can do magic for a crying child.


The following are medications that every family should have to treat minor illnesses and emergencies:

  • For pain relief: If you keep aspirin or aspirin products for pain relievers, make sure that you never give this medication to children or teenagers. Although rare, aspirin has been linked to the frequently-fatal disease, Reye's Syndrome. Use alternatives such as acetaminophen for pain relief and fever reduction and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), like ibuprofen, for inflammation.
  • For bug bites and itchy skin: Keep calamine lotion to treat bug bites or rashes, an antihistamine cream for more persistent irritations and a 1% cortisone cream for the most stubborn itches.
  • For allergies: Keep handy OTC allergy medications that don't make you sleepy. You also might want to store eye-drops specifically for weepy or itchy eyes.
  • Heartburn and upset stomach: Have antacids handy.
  • Minor cuts or scrapes: Use antibiotic ointment to treat minor injuries.
  • Anti-diarrhea medication

Additional medications that you might want to have in the cabinet include hydrogen peroxide to clean wounds, antifungal creams to treat athlete's foot and cough medicines. For a dry hacking cough, buy a cough medication that includes the cough suppressant dextromethorphan. If the cough is kicking out mucous, get the cough med with an expectorant in it to help loosen up the chest.
You will also need other supplies in addition to bandage strips and medications. Other useful objects to have include:

  • A thermometer;
  • Tooth paste;
  • Dental floss;
  • Spare toothbrushes;
  • Cotton balls;
  • Disposable latex gloves;{relatedarticles}
  • Elastic wraps for minor sprains;
  • Butterfly bandages;
  • Liquid skin;
  • Gauze;
  • Adhesive tape;
  • Scissors;
  • Tweezers;
  • A needle to help with splinters; and
  • A magnifying glass.

Phone Numbers for Your Medicine Cabinet

Always keep the names and phone numbers of all of your family doctors taped inside your medicine cabinet as well as next to one of your phones. In addition, include the number for United States Poison Control Centers, 1-800-222-1222. You might also want to write in important information about any medical conditions your family members may have, such as allergies, and any medications that your family members are taking in case someone outside of your family, such as a baby-sitter, needs to call the paramedics.
Cleaning Out Your Medicine Cabinet

Try to clean out your medicine cabinet about once a year. Get rid of any OTC medications that are out of date. Drugs can lose potency over time. In addition, some drugs can actually become toxic if kept too long. At the same time that you are doing this, keep an inventory of what you will need to replace the next time that you go to the drug store.


Follow manufacturer's suggestions on how to dispose of the medications. Don't flush anything down the toilet that doesn't have an instruction to do so. Before throwing any drugs away in the trash, take the meds out of their containers and mix the medications with something unappetizing like kitty litter to make the drugs unappealing to children or pets.

Toss any leftover prescription drugs. Like OTC drugs, prescription drugs can lose potency or become toxic over time. Even if prescription drugs are still valid, it is not wise to use leftover medication that was prescribed for one member of your family for to treat a "similar" illness that another member of your family is experiencing. The medication prescribed is usually specific to one individual's illness, weight and age. In fact, any family member should always finish taking all of the drugs prescribed by your doctor even if the family member is feeling better.

Don't forget to remove personal information from prescription drug containers before you throw the containers away to help protect your privacy.
Medication Cautions

Remember that any medication that you or your family may take, including OTC drugs, prescription drugs and herbal or natural remedies, can have side effects. In addition, OTC drugs, prescription drugs and herbal remedies can interact with each other with negative consequences. Make sure that you discuss all of the medications that you and your family are taking with your physician to protect your health.


In addition, if you are treating a family member for a specific illness and that illness persists, it might be a good time to call your physician to see if you need to make an appointment for a physical examination.