When a minor mishap strikes, where are you likely to go for first aid?
Your trusty medicine chest, of course.
Within lie sundry remedies that can help you cope with garden-variety illnesses and emergencies. The key is keeping your medicine chest "fully stocked, up to date and safe," says Bob Chiou, a pharmacist at the Vons Pharmacy in Riverside, Calif.
"A good one will make it much less likely you'll have to traipse out to a pharmacy or urgent care clinic at 2 a.m.," says William Garrett, director of Network Pharmacy at the Riverside Medical Clinic.
The following medicine cabinet "makeover" suggested by Garrett, Chiou and other experts is merely a basic blueprint. Feel free to customize:
Throw stuff away: Take stock and toss anything that's useless; expired; at least a year old; has changed noticeably in odor, texture, taste or color; formed a residue at the bottom of the bottle or has missing or illegible labeling. Also get rid of medicines your physician has told you to stop taking. If in doubt, ask a pharmacist.
Dispose safely: Never just chuck drugs in the trash where children or animals might swallow them. Flush them down the toilet. For privacy's sake, strip off prescription labels; throw away empty vials, bottles and other products in an opaque plastic bag.
Clean the cabinet: At least once a year, scrub down the storage area with a mild cleanser to get rid of dust, residues, spills and other contaminants.
Restock essentials: Only keep essential first aid, preventive health and hygiene products. Replace low or missing items.
Common conditions -- and the basics needed to treat them -- include:
- Cuts and scrapes: Sterile saline solution; antibacterial soap and hydrogen peroxide for cleansing wounds; antibiotic cream or spray for wounds.
- Eye irritation: Eye wash.
- Allergies, stings and itchy rashes: Antihistamines containing diphenydramine for allergic reactions to bug stings, foods or other medicines. Calamine lotion or hydrocortisone ointment.
- Sunburn prevention: Sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher).
- Sunburns and scalds: Aloe-vera gel; antiseptic/anesthetic ointments or sprays.
- Dry skin: Protective skin cream or lotion.
- Pain or fever: Acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin.
- Swelling/inflammation: Aspirin, ibuprofen, ketoprofen or naproxen sodium.
- Coughs/colds/allergies: Antihistamines for sneezing, runny nose and itching; decongestants for stuff nose; expectorants to loosen a cough; antitussives to relieve a dry cough.
- Gastrointestinal upset: Liquid antacid for heartburn or indigestion; a laxative for constipation and irregularity and an anti-diarrhea for diarrhea.
- Poisoning: Syrup of ipecac. Never induce vomiting before consulting a poison control center. Some poisons must never be vomited.
- Sterile self-adhesive bandages in assorted sizes; gauze pads and rolls.
- Roll of hypoallergenic adhesive tape.
- ACE bandage; cold pack for sprains or swelling; hot pack for muscle aches.
- Tweezers and a magnifying glass for splinters.
- Mercury thermometer or newer digital model.
- Scissors for cutting bandages and tape.
- Calibrated measuring spoon for liquid medications.
- Cotton balls and swabs for cleansing wounds and applying medication.
- Miscellaneous: rubbing alcohol, packets of alcohol or betadyne wipes; antibacterial soap; petroleum jelly.