Much of what you include in your medicine chest depends on the age and state of health of those living in your home. However, there are some basic supplies that everyone needs in order to cope with minor injuries and common, transient symptoms. Just as important as what supplies to stock is where and how to keep them. Read on to find out how stock your medicine cabinet.

Things You Will Need

* Prescription medicines

* Bandages

* Scissors

* Adhesive tape

* Gauze

* Tweezers

* Digital thermometer

* Rubbing alcohol

* Ice bag

* Heating pad

Step 1


Most medications lose some of their potency at high temperature and humidity. That's why you should no more keep them in your bathroom or kitchen than you would fine wine. Store them in a cool, dry, dark place such as a closet that's easily accessible to you but out of reach of your kids.

Step 2


Now is a good time to clean out your medicine chest and make a fresh start. Don't put any discarded items into the wastebasket, where kids can get hold of them; flush them down the toilet. Throw out all expired prescription drugs. Get rid of any eyedroppers that touched the eyes when they were used. Discard bottles of partially used liquid medication that was swigged out of the bottle. Syrup of ipecac, which causes vomiting, used to be "indispensable" for poisoning. Stock activated charcoal instead.

Step 3


Mercury is toxic. Say goodbye to your mercury thermometer. It was never a good idea to put glass in anyone's mouth, anyway, especially kids'. Buy one of the new digital thermometers; the less expensive ones are just as accurate as the more costly type. Mercury can be dangerous, so don't throw it into the garbage. Take the old thermometer to a special collection center in your community.

Step 4


You are now ready to stock up anew. Here's what you should have in addition to the prescription drugs your family needs:

* Bandages. Include a couple that are elastic to be used for strains.

* Scissors

* Adhesive tape

* Gauze

* Tweezers. If you hike in the woods, have a thin-tipped set, as well, to pick out ticks. Remember to clean your tweezers with alcohol before each use.

* Digital thermometer

* Rubbing alcohol

* Ice bag

* Heating pad

* Cotton balls and swabs

* Calibrated medicine spoon (to measure the exact dosage)

Step 5


Now for the over-the-counter medications:

* Pain: Aspirin is the old standby (but never give it to anyone under age 18 who has a respiratory or other viral illness); acetaminophen (Tylenol); one of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen (Aleve) or Ibuprofen (Notrin). Remember, however, that these should not be taken in doses larger than what is indicated on the label and usually for no more than 10 consecutive days.

* Indigestion. Antacids. Liquid preparations act faster than the pills.

* Occasional diarrhea: Imodium, Lomotil, or Pepto-Bismol will usually help.

* Insect bites, minor skin irritations: A 1 percent topical hydrocortisone such as Cortaid is very helpful. Benadryl cream is especially effective for itchy bites.

* Poison ivy and similar skin irritations: Calamine lotion will reduce the itch and soothe the irritation.

* Stuffy nose: There arc several available decongestants. (Before taking, check with your doctor if you have cardiac rhythm abnormality or high blood pressure.)

* Mild cough: I recommend preparations that contain dextromethorphan. The theobromine in dark chocolate may actually be as effective as most cough suppressants---and a lot more fun to take.

* Allergy: Use any of the over-the-counter antihistamines available. Look for one that doesn't leave you drowsy and remember that they can all cause voiding problems in men with enlarged prostates. If you or anyone in your family reacts badly to wasp or bee stings, you should have injectable epinephrine (Epipen) handy for emergencies.

* Occasional constipation: Try prune juice first. If that doesn't work, take a mild laxative such as Dulcolax, or a fiber-rich product such as FiberCon or Metamucil.

* Minor cuts and scrapes: Use an antibacterial ointment (most of them end with "sporin") such as Polysporin or Neosporin.

* Minor burns: Cold running water is much better than butter. Neosporin Plus prevents infection.

* Poison: In the event of acute poisoning, call the NationalPoisonControlCenter hotline anytime day or night at 1-800-222-1222 or 1-800-876-4766. Keep those numbers handy.

These items are what you should have handy for some of the symptoms you may encounter in your everyday life. And remember that in every medicine or herb there is a little poison, whether or not it requires a prescription. Take the lowest dose of any medication for only as long as you absolutely need it.

Tips & Warnings