First aid must-haves for your medicine cabinet

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It’s late at night, you know you’re coming down with something, and there’s no way you’re driving to the store at this hour. So, what’s in your medicine cabinet?

Hopefully, it’s a well-stocked supply of first aid and over-the-counter products to help you feel better. I tell my patients it’s a good idea to be ready for a little bit of everything. Here are some items that I keep on hand:

Fever/headache: Most adults can use acetaminophen at 1,000 mg three times per day. Ibuprofen or naproxen sodium can usually be used at label doses, however, there are many exceptions, such as people on blood thinners or who have a history of high blood pressure or ulcers. These folks should ask their doctor before use.

Body/muscle pain: Try an ice pack or heating pad first. If they don’t work, then the medications used for fever/headache can usually be used. 

Digestive problems: Calcium carbonate tablets or antacids work for adults who don’t have kidney disease. Baking soda can also be used at the doses listed on the box, again, if there are no kidney problems. 

Skin problems: For a rash, diphenhydramine cream or hydrocortisone cream are good for most people to use on a small area for a few days. If it’s an area larger than an arm or leg, or it doesn’t improve with a few days of treatment, then see a doctor. Cuts can be treated with an over-the-counter antibiotic cream or ointment and a bandage to prevent infection and speed healing. Calamine lotion is good for bug bites.

Allergies: Diphenhydramine can be used by most people, but be aware that it can make you drowsy.

Cold/coughs: I think the best thing, really, is a vaporizer and some saline nasal spray, along with rest and lots of fluids. If a cough is severe or persistent, see a doctor.

First aid: Keep some elastic wraps for sprains and compression, along with large and small adhesive bandages and antibiotic cream. Sterile gauze pads, antiseptic wipes and roller bandages are good, too.

Tools: A digital thermometer that can be used in the mouth or armpit is a must. Tweezers are good for removing splinters. It’s also good to have scissors and nonlatex gloves available.

Remember to check your home medical supplies a few times a year to restock used items and replace expired ones. The American Academy of Family Physicians also has a good guide for creating medical kits at home and on the go.


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