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Must Haves for Your Medicine Cabinet

Updated on December 13, 2012

We all know we should have supplies in our medicine cabinet, but more often than not, we discover we are lacking a certain item (i.e., burn salve, bandage or alcohol) precisely when someone is hurt and needs help at that moment. If this is on your list of things to do, you should stop procrastinating and get this done soon.

Injuries happen at any time, a burn, cut or a simple sprain can be easily treated at home if you have the right supplies. A few moments taken now to adequately supply your medicine cabinet or first aid kit, will go a long way to confidently take care of sudden injuries.

Having something to treat pain is really important, purchase non-steroid over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen or naproxen sodium tablets. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen also help with fever reduction. In addition, if you suspect someone has suffered a stroke or a heart attack aspirin can be taken while you wait for an ambulance to help prevent further permanent damage. However, if you or a member of your household is at risk for a heart condition, you should speak with your doctor about the best way to proceed during an emergency.

Having a thermometer is also important since keeping track of a fever can help you determine when it is time to seek professional medical treatment. Children’s fevers usually spike quite high, but a good rule of thumb to follow is if you have treated the child with fever reducing medicine and the fever remains high and the child is lethargic and avoiding eye contact, seek prompt medical attention. For an adult, you would want to seek medical attention once a fever reaches about 103°F.

For cuts and scrapes you need to have something to clean and then cover the injury, for this, soap, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, antibacterial ointment along with a variety of bandages are necessary. Minor cuts and scrapes should be washed with soap and rinsed with cool water. Moisten a cotton pad with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide and wipe the wound and follow with a dab of antibacterial ointment. Cover the wound with a bandage and leave it in place. Change the bandage as needed (i.e., if it becomes loose, wet or dirty). If you follow these steps you should avoid infection. However, if a cut is deep, is bleeding uncontrollably for a long period of time, has been exposed to harmful chemicals or has debris embedded in it that you are unable to remove, seek prompt medical attention.

For sprains and strains a few elastic bandages are very useful. For these types of injuries the RICE method of treatment is recommended (RICE stands for: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). The bandages help you with compression part. Wrap the bandage around the injured joint, apply an ice pack, take an over the counter pain reliever and elevate it to help reduce inflammation. Sprains and strains treated this way can heal in 4 to 6 weeks. If the pain does not subside but remains sharp for a long period of time or if you are unable to move the joint at all, you should seek medical treatment.

The last two items you should have in your medicine cabinet are also important. An antihistamine, such as Benadryl, Zyrtec, Claritin or Allegra (or their generic equivalents) available over the counter help relieve many minor allergic symptoms such as itching, swelling or hives and sneezing. You should also have on hand a cortisone cream in a 1% formulation. These are also available over the counter. These creams are excellent for relieving the itch and burn of rashes, insect bites or poison ivy.

To avoid expired items check your medicine cabinet’s inventory twice per year. A helpful way to remember this is to tie it in with something else that happens twice a year, such as changing the clocks for daylight savings. Most U.S. states remind you to also check smoke alarm at this time so why not add checking your medicine cabinet too?

Having medical supplies on hand at home is a great idea, but do not forget to plan for when you are on the move. Create a small first aid kit to place in the trunk of your car is a great idea. Injuries happen any time and any place. This way when if an injury occurs, instead of getting stressed out because you do not have supplies, you are able to remain calm and take care of the situation. Being prepared for anything no matter where you are is always a great idea.


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