Medicine Cabinet Must-HavesMedicine Cabinet Must Haves

If you’re a fan of spring cleaning, why not take a few minutes this spring to check out your medicine cabinet? You might be surprised at how much of your medication is expired or empty, and you don’t want to discover that when a need arises.

It’s especially helpful to consider both your prescriptions and your over-the-counter medications to ensure you – or a loved one – are always ready for any medical emergency or need. Seniors or caregivers especially should take care in evaluating their overall medical care at home, and leverage the expertise of doctors and pharmacists.

Consider these five tips in making the most of your medicine cabinet:

1. Enlist the Help of Your Pharmacist

You can request that your medications have large-print labels and come in easier-to-open containers. Your pharmacist can also advise you on the best way to take your medications (with food, with plenty of water, etc.), warning signs of negative reactions, how to store your medications, and what to do if you run out of a medication. Keep this info handy on your medication checklist (see below), so that you or a loved one can find it and review it easily.

2. Keep a Checklist Handy

Take a few minutes to create a checklist or chart of all the medication you take – both prescription and over-the-counter. You will want to include information like:

  • Name of medication
  • What it is for
  • Dosage amount
  • Appearance of the pill (color, shape, etc.)
  • When to take it
  • How to take it (with food, etc.)
  • Date started
  • Can you stop taking it when you feel better? (Be sure to ask your doctor.)
  • Doctor’s name 

It’s a good idea to make at least two copies of the checklist, storing one next to your refrigerator or medicine cabinet when the medications are stored, and keeping one in your wallet or purse. You may also consider giving a copy to a loved one and your doctor’s office for your file. Be sure to keep your list updated regularly, especially if you have a change in any condition or prescription.

3. Consider Interactions

Be sure to talk to your doctor and pharmacist about everything you take, including herbal supplements, vitamins, and over-the-counter medications like aspirin. Your pharmacist should be able to alert you to any possible negative interactions. Some medications, even over-the-counter versions, can also be impacted if you drink a certain amount alcohol, so be sure to ask about that as well. No one will judge you; instead, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your medications.

4. Keep Medications Away from Children and Pets

Remember that for curious grandchildren and energetic pets, easily accessible medications can mean sickness or even death. Be sure to keep your medications well out of reach to avoid any accidents, especially when family is visiting. Keep the Poison Help phone number handy or programmed into your mobile phone (1-800-222-1222); experts are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and calls are always free and confidential.

5. Stock Up on the Basics

Below is a common list of recommended items for any medicine cabinet. Again, be sure to discuss possible interactions or best recommended brands with your pharmacist.

For Pain, Headaches, Fever:

  • Aspirin (NOT recommended for people who take blood thinners or are about to have surgery; may irritate stomach)
  • Acetaminophen (do not combine with other medicines containing Acetaminophen because overdoses can harm the liver)
  • Ibuprofen or naproxen sodium (may irritate stomach)

For Colds, Coughs, Allergies, or Congestion:

  • Decongestants (pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine; phenylephrine is kept, by law, behind the counter so you must show identification to purchase and buy)
  • Cough medicine (options include cough suppressants, or something with guaifenesin, an expectorant, to loosen secretions)
  • Antihistamines (carefully read package on whether the option is sedating or non-sedating)
  • Eyedrops (many options available to treat various levels of dryness or allergies)

For Digestive Issues:

  • Calcium carbonate tablets (like Tums or Rolaids) to relieve heartburn
  • Stronger acid-reducing products that you use on a longer-term basis (check with your doctor)
  • Fiber-based constipation aids (be sure to check with your doctor for chronic constipation)
  • Diarrhea aids (like Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate, or Imodium) (again, check with doctor if you’re using more than occasionally)

For Itches, Rashes, Bug Bites, Cuts, and Burns:

  • Calamine lotion or other antihistamine creams
  • Aloe Vera lotion
  • Bandages, gauze pads and medical tape, and antiseptic cream like Neosporin for minor cuts
  • Hydrogen peroxide (stings less than alcohol, but good for cleaning wounds)
  • Sunscreen

For Tooth Care:

  • Extra toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Rub-on painkiller like Ambesol or aches and canker sores
  • Temporary dental-repair kits (in case of broken dental work)
  • Denture cleaning supplies

Additional Tools:

  • Thermometer
  • Tweezers and magnifying glass
  • Eyeglass repair kit
  • Nail clippers
  • Dosage cup (can get at local pharmacy)

What are your medicine cabinet must-haves? Let us know in the comments!

Megan Hammons lives in the Central Texas countryside just outside of Austin, pursuing her love for copywriting after a career in high-tech marketing. She is part of a large, diverse family and enjoys spending time with the multiple generations living in her community.


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