Give Your Medicine Cabinet a Makeover With This MD-Approved List


Do you have the medicines and supplies you need to treat minor aches and pains, cuts or burns at home? Keep reading for a list of doctor-recommended essentials.

Your medicine cabinet may be busting at the seams, but is it full of the right things? If you’re well-stocked with outdated prescriptions, solidified cough syrup and empty Band-Aid boxes, then maybe your medicine cabinet, not just you and your family, needs a little TLC.

We talked to Scott Wallace, MD, Pediatrics, Renown Medical Group, about the essential items you’ll need to treat minor aches, pains, cuts or burns. The key word here is “minor.” If anyone in the family is experiencing severe or prolonged illness or symptoms, Dr. Wallace recommends seeking proper medical attention. But if what ails you can be treated at home, you’ll want his quick list of must-haves on hand.

Bumps and Scratches

    • Antiseptics such as Betadine swabs or hydrogen peroxide — which stings less than alcohol — to clean wounds.
    • Antibiotic ointments to prevent infections and protect wounds or burns.
    • Medical tape and adhesive bandages and gauze in various sizes. Choose hypoallergenic tape if anyone in the family has sensitive skin. Liquid bandages do the job with less scarring and bandaging.

Colds, Fevers and Sore Throats

Always read labels for proper dosage, and remember that cold medicines with an antihistamine cause drowsiness. And if a cough or other symptoms last longer than a week or increase in severity, seek medical attention.

  • A fever reducer and pain killer such as ibuprofen (Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Look for child-friendly formulas for kids under age 12. And make sure you don’t take more than one medication containing Acetaminophen.
  • Decongestants and sore throat lozenges for older children and adults.
  • Cough medicines containing an expectorant like guaifenesin to address the cough and eliminate mucous may help, though studies are inconclusive. Natural cough medicines are available for kids starting at age 1, though again studies about their efficacy are inconclusive.
  • Thermometer for taking temperature — oral or ear are the easiest to administer to children.

 Allergies and Itching

  • Antihistamines to relieve runny nose and sneezing. Remember that those containing diphenhydramine, clemastine and chlorpheniramine cause drowsiness. Those containing loratadine frequently do not.
  • Calamine lotion or cortisone cream to relieve itching from rashes and bug bites.
  • Eyedrops that contain an antihistamine and a decongestant to soothe itchy eyes; not recommended for children under age 3.

 Digestive Issues

While over-the-counter treatments are available for constipation and diarrhea, don’t overuse them, as your body can become dependent. Antidiarrheal medications are not frequently recommended with infectious causes of diarrhea, so consult your doctor prior to using them. Generally you should avoid laxatives unless directed by a doctor to take them. If either diarrhea or constipation persists, seek medical attention — a larger health concern might be at play.

  • Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol or Imodium to treat noninfectious diarrhea.
  • Pedialyte to help prevent dehydration in young children who have diarrhea or are vomiting.
  • MiraLAX to soften the stool.
  • Rectal suppositories for infantile constipation.
  • Antacids for heartburn, reflux and indigestion.

Miscellaneous Items

  • Sprays or antifungal creams for athlete’s foot.
  • Sunscreens for family members 6 months and older.
  • Magnifying glass and tweezers for removing splinters.

Always remember to keep medicines out of reach of children, and keep the 24/7 number for Poison Control handy. If you suspect your child has ingested anything poisonous, call the hotline immediately: 800-222-1222. Do not offer your child vomit-inducing medicines.

Always consult your pediatrician with questions about what medications and treatments are safe for your kids. To find a pediatrician, use our Find a Doctor feature online. For more information about healthy living, visit our Lifestyle page on BestMedicine.