Which Medicines Should Be In Your Cabinet?

A senior woman reaching into her medicine cabinet for a prescription bottle(BlackDoctor.org) — Today, there are tens of thousands of medications out there, and the vast majority of human afflictions are not treated by medical providers…but at home.

While different families may have different issues, narrowing down your home pharmacy to just ten medicines can simplify your life. This extra room can then be used for more specialized medicines, as well as other essential items that you also need to have.

First, always remember to use the KISS rule: Keep it Safe and Simple.

Take out ALL of your medicines and line them up on a table. Look at the expiration dates and dispose of any old ones. If you have any leftover antibiotics from prescriptions you never finished, throw all of those away, too. Medications for conditions that you no longer have, or are unlikely to have, can be discarded as well, in addition to anything old, smelly and/or runny.

Experts advise that you clean out your medicine cabinets once a year.

After this, group your home pharmacy into categories: cold medicines, ointments/creams, pain/fever medications, etc. This will help you find duplicates — medicines of different brand names that do the same thing, such as two different types of hydrocortisone cream, or two different types of acetaminophen.

The Right Medicines For Your Home Pharmacy

1. Pain and Fever Medication. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen in both adult and child strengths (if you have children). If you have an infant, you may need infant strengths as well. Remember that ibuprofen also has anti-inflammatory properties. Be sure to check the dosages when administering medicine to children, since children take doses based on their weight.

2. Antiseptic Solution. Cuts and wounds should be carefully cleansed, so your pharmacy should have hydrogen peroxide, Betadine solution, or equivalent.

3. Topical Antibiotics. After cleaning a wound, applying a topical antibiotic will help reduce healing time and infection risk. Available as an ointment (greasy, but protective) or a cream (rubs in easily), both types are considered equally effective for the prevention and treatment of minor skin infections. Some topical antibiotics are better for burns — you should always have a burn ointment in your cabinet. But don’t use butter, oil, salve or cocoa butter because they raise infection. On unbroken skin, you can additionally apply a cold pack to the burnt area. But if the burn blister is broken, just wash with plain soap, apply a little antibacterial ointment, and wrap lightly with a bandage.

4. Hydrocortisone. This topical steroid is also available in creams and ointments. Used for itching, treating mosquito bites, etc.

5. Antifungal Medications. Use for athlete’s feet or fungal diaper rashes. If the woman of the house is prone to occasional vaginal yeast infections, some miconazole is nice to have available.

5. Stomach and Intestinal Disorders Medication. Include a good stool softener, such as Colace (docusate sodium), or a mild laxative. For diarrhea, having Kaopectate or even Pepto-Bismol can be helpful. Over-the-counter cimetidine or omeprazole would also be appropriate to include, along with Maalox or Mylanta.

6. Salt. You can get this from the kitchen, but making your own saline (1/4 tsp of salt to 8 oz of water) can be used for gargling or homemade nasal spray/drops.

7. Antihistamines. Antihistamines can relieve the symptoms of allergic reactions – whether they’re from ragweed, dust, insect bites or a specific food. Doctors often recommend them because they work quickly to dry up a watery nose or control itchy allergies. Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is the most common, but it can be sedating. Claritin (loratadine) or Zyrtec (cetirizine) lasts longer (24 hours) and both are considered non-sedating. All are available in both adult and children formulations. Remember that if you’re dealing with a severe allergic reaction – difficulty breathing, tongue or lip swelling – don’t count on a pill. Call 911 and get to an emergency room immediately.

8. Decongestant. Medications containing pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) or phenylephrine are for stuffy/congested noses. They can be stimulating and may interfere with sleep. Decongestants also drain mucous, so taking them at night is going to cause a river of drainage. It is best to do this during the day when you can blow your nose.

9. Cough Medicines. There are two types: expectorants (makes you cough by loosening mucous), and suppressants (controls or reduces coughing). It is important to know your goal when you select one. Medicines that contain dextromethorphan (DM) can suppress a cough. Combination medicines have both an expectorant and a suppressant — they essential make you cough and tries to stop it at the same time.

10. Medicines Specific To Your Families Needs. Of course, as mentioned before, your family and individual needs may require you to have other medicines or classes of over-the-counter drugs on hand. Each home pharmacy will need to be individualized. The home pharmacy of someone with children will be totally different than a family without kids.

Toss These… Today!

Now that you know what medicines belong in your cabinet, here’s what needs to be thrown out…now. The following products do more harm than good:

Mercurochrome and betadine. Experts now say that these old-school, wound-cleansing antiseptics can delay healing.

“The new, fragile cells responsible for a wound’s healing are easily damaged by the toxic effects of these agents,” Singh says.

Syrup of ipecac. The American Pediatric Association no longer recommends taking this to induce vomiting after swallowing something dangerous, Singh says. “By causing vomiting, there’s a risk of [inhaling stomach contents into the lungs].”

A Necessary Reminder About Any Medication…

• When using any medication or treament, always follow dosage recommendations and avoid the home treatment of things that have not been properly diagnosed — even if you are the one diagnosing them. Consult with your medical provider if you have doubts or questions.

• Remember that all medicines need to be securely locked if you have kids, or visiting grandchildren.

• Rather than wasting time on a risky and possibly ineffective treatment, call 911 or poison control if a family member has swallowed a toxic substance.

• To avoid contaminating the environment, follow label instructions when disposing expired drugs, according to the FDA.

When in doubt about any medicine, talk to your pharmacist or your doctor.


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