Is your medicine cabinet stocked

April 03, 2006|by JULIE E. GREENE

One thing you shouldn't keep in your medicine cabinet is medicine, says Dr. Greg Lyon-Loftus with Mont Alto (Pa.) Family Practice.

Changes in heat, humidity and light can destroy the potency of pill or liquid medicines - changes that frequently occur in a bathroom, Lyon-Loftus says.

He recommends storing medicine you're keeping for a long time in the refrigerator, which sees little light and usually maintains consistent temperature and humidity.

Medicine that will be used quickly can be stored in a linen closet or the bedroom, but away from children.

When it comes to keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet, Lyon-Loftus suggests keeping in mind the types of ailments treated at home: cuts, sprains, upset tummies, etc.


Lyon-Loftus and Sue Higgins, pharmacist manager for Home Care Pharmacy/Fennel in Hagerstown, provided some ideas of things that would be good to have in a medicine cabinet, or at least on hand at home.

Here's the list:

  • Acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, to reduce fever and pain, Lyon-Loftus says.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory treatment for maladies such as arthritis, twisted ankle or a rotten tooth. Anti-inflammatories include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. They reduce inflammation as well as fever and pain. However, Lyon-Loftus says it is dangerous to give aspirin to children with a fever because there's a risk of Reye's Syndrome, which can be serious.

  • Hydrocortisone 1 percent cream, which is the highest percentage of hydrocortisone that can be sold over the counter, says Higgins, who has a doctorate in pharmacy. Hydrocortisone is a topical anti-inflammatory cream that helps alleviate the itchiness and inflammation associated with rashes such as those caused by a mild allergic reaction to poison ivy.

  • Insect sting kit or baking soda to create a paste with water. The baking soda paste or base solution in an insect-sting kit neutralizes the acid injected by insects such as bees and yellow jackets, Higgins says.

  • Antihistamine for sneezy, runny nose and itching. Different antihistamines have varying levels of drowsiness or nondrowsiness. Benadryl tends to make people sleepy but can excite some children, Lyon-Loftus says.

  • A topical anesthetic, such as Solarcaine, to relieve pain caused by sunburn or minor burns, Higgins says.

  • Antacid. This is a remedy for indigestion or hyperacidity, Higgins says. The ones most generally useful are the ones that neutralize the acid in the stomach. This includes Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids and Tums. Medicines such as ranitidine, or Zantac, help more severe cases by blocking secretions of acid into the stomach, Lyon-Loftus and Higgins say.

  • Antidiarrheal medicine. Includes Kaopectate, Pepto Bismal or Imodium AD. This is an anti-mobility agent that keeps the bowels from dumping, Lyon-Loftus says.

  • Laxative for constipation. Most laxatives stimulate the bowels to squeeze, Lyon-Loftus says.

    Coke or cola syrup for nausea. Not the soda, but the sweet sugary syrup used to make soda. This is an old-time remedy people can pour over crushed ice and sip to settle a nauseous stomach, Higgins says.

  • Pedialyte or Gatorade. These drinks restore electrolytes, help prevent dehydration and rehydrate a person who is having to vomit often or has diarrhea, Higgins says. A deficiency in electrolytes can have an adverse effect on heart and muscle activity.

    Lyon-Loftus says they also are good for fever. Children can become dehydrated from sweating associated with fever.

  • Eyewash. This is typically a saline wash accompanied by an eye cup. Put saline in the cup and then put the cup on your eye and tilt your head back with your eye open so the saline bathes your eye. Used to clear small objects out of the eye or if your eyes have been bothered by fumes, Higgins says.

  • Fat, ointment, cream or lotion for dry skin. Dampen the skin and apply one of these to prevent the water from evaporating. Fat with no water in it, such as Crisco, is most effective in sealing in moisture, Lyon-Loftus says. Lotion, which contains a lot of water, is the least effective because it allows wet skin to dry out.

  • Antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin, for cuts, Higgins says.

    Lyon-Loftus says these can be used on wounds that bleed, after the wound is cleaned. Vaseline also will work because, like the ointment, it seals the wound before germs get inside, he says. The wound heals itself and the antibiotic ointment prevents germs from taking advantage of the opening.

  • Bandages such as adhesive bandages, antiseptic gauze or 2-inch-by-2-inch pads with adhesive tape, butterfly bandages, transparent tape, spray bandages or moleskin. Butterfly bandages or transparent tape can be used to close small cuts that don't need stitches, Higgins says.

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