Medicine cabinets are there to keep our lives in one concise, easy-to-reach place. And what do we most often keep in our medicine cabinets? Medicine, of course! However, if they’re kept out of reach for too long and go without use, they can quickly expire. The red goop in the bottle may have once been cough syrup, but it looks more like congealed jello now. Some of your medications may look like they need to go on life support. It may be time to do some spring cleaning in your cabinet.
A Medicine Cabinet Tool Kit
Besides your prescriptions, all you really need in your medicine cabinet are a few tools. You need medicine to treat minor cuts and burns, headaches, fevers, itching, coughs, runny noses, or allergies. But pay attention to the word “minor” - for severe problems, avoid the medicine cabinet, and go straight to your doctor. The following list is what you should be keeping your medicine cabinet to stay as healthy as possible:
- For headaches, pains, and fever, keep aspirin in your medicine cabinet. It’s a great fever killer and pain reducer, but it can be rough on your stomach. It can also interfere with blood clotting, so those who take blood thinners or who may have surgery shouldn’t take it. Kids and teens shouldn’t take aspirin, either, since it’s linked to Reye’s syndrome, which can cause the brain and liver to swell.
- Ibuprofen or naproxen sodium: these are great and effective painkillers for adults and children over 12 years of old.
- Acetaminophen: This is a pretty decent choice for those who do not want to take aspirin. Acetaminophen, or Tylenol, also comes in doses suitable for kids. Adults should take care when taking acetaminophen - they should avoid any other medications that contain it, like a combination cough-and-cold medication. Overdosing on acetaminophen can be harmful to the liver.
- Do not, under any circumstances, mix painkillers with alcohol - that’s just bad news. If you have more than three drinks per day, consult your doctor.
- For cold congestion, keep a stash of decongestants handy. Two of the most commonly used decongestants are pseudoephedrine (found in Sudafed) and phenylephrine (found in Dristan Cold Multi-Symptom Relief). Keep in mind that many laws require that pseudoephedrine be kept behind the counter - you may have to provide identification when purchasing.
- Good old cough medicine works wonders on a dry, hacking cough. If mucus comes up when you cough, use a medication that loosens secretions, like something with guaifenesin in it.
- Antihistamines work to relieve runny noses and sneezing, but can also make you sleepy. Take these only if you have a sick day from work.
- Eyedrops that contain an antihistamine and/or a decongestant can help soothe your itchy eyes.
- For digestive problems, use calcium carbonate tablets, Maalox or Mylanta, Pepcid or Prilosec. These medications can temporarily relieve acid reflux and nausea. However, if you suffer from these symptoms chronically, see your doctor for a more long-term treatment. He or she can advise you on dietary changes, an exercise regimen - or, they’ll simply tell you to slow down when eating!
- Be warned - treatments for diarrhea and constipation can cause dependency. Fiber-based products, like Metamucil, are rarely habit-forming, so stick to those whenever possible.
- For rashes, bug bites, and skin problems, keep calamine lotion and aloe vera close at hand - cortisone is a great help, too.
- For cuts and burns, keep a stockpile of bandages, gauze pads, medical tape, antibiotic ointment, and hydrogen peroxide handy.
Is your medicine cabinet now looking a bit more new and less encrusted with melted pills? Good! You and your family are well on your way to a healthier, happier life - and more prepared to face trials and illness as they come.