Family health

Medicine cabinet essentials

Cold and flu season is upon us, it's time to stock up your family's medicine cabinet.

By Michele Holcomb
Medicine cabinet essentials

Medicine cabinet essentials

Over-the-counter remedies

These over-the-counter remedies help you respond immediately to an illness or minor accident at home.

For more serious symptoms, contact your family doctor, go to the nearest hospital or call 911.

Medicine cabinet essentialsPhoto: Mari/iStockphoto

Practise prevention

Drugs decompose quicker when exposed to moisture and heat, so don’t store them in a bathroom and keep them away from direct light. You should also keep all medications out of the reach of curious little hands, and always check with your health practitioner before administering medication to a child.

At least once a year go through your medicine cabinet and remove medications that are old (have changed colour, smell or taste), that you no longer take or are past their expiration date.

Do not flush medication down the toilet, pour down the sink or throw in the garbage. Most pharmacies and municipalities offer environmentally-friendly drug disposal programs.

Medicine cabinet essentialsPhoto: micro10x/iStockphoto


Ingested medications (A-D)

You should keep the following medications on hand:

- Acetaminophen (pain reliever/treats fever)
- Acetylsalicylic acid: a.k.a. Aspirin (anti-inflammatory/pain reliever/treats fever)
- Antihistamine (treats allergies)
- Calcium carbonate or magnesium hydroxide (treats heartburn)
- Children’s vitamins and adult multivitamins
- Cough suppressant syrup (not suitable for children under 6 years of age)
- Decongestant: pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine (treats colds and flu, but is not suitable for children under 6 years of age)
- Dimenhydrinate (prevents nausea/motion sickness)

Medicine cabinet essentialsPhoto: matka_Wariatka/iStockphoto

Ingested medications (E-Z)

Also keep these on hand:

- Ibuprofen (anti-inflammatory/pain reliever/treats fever)
- Laxative
- Loperamide (treats diarrhea)
- Nasal saline spray
- Oral electrolytes (replace fluids and minerals lost after vomiting and diarrhea)
- Throat lozenges

Medicine cabinet essentialsPhoto: Maya23K/iStockphoto

Topical applications (A-H)

These topical ointments are must-haves:

- Aloe vera gel (moisturizes/treats sunburn)
- Antibiotic ointment (treats cuts/rashes/bacteria-fighter)
- Calamine lotion (treats insect bites/rashes/sunburn)
- Clotrimazole (anti-fungal)
- Eye drops
- Hand sanitizing liquid
- Hydrocortisone cream (treats insect bites/stings)
- Hydrogen peroxide (antiseptic)

Medicine cabinet essentialsPhoto: OlgaMiltsova/iStockphoto


Topical applications (I-Z)

In terms of topical treatments, these should also be kept around at all times:

- Insect repellant
- Rubbing alcohol
- Sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher (do not use on babies under 6 months old)
- Vitamin E (moisturizes/fades scars)
- Zinc oxide ointment

Medicine cabinet essentialsPhoto: magda_rzymanek/iStockphoto


These are important dressings to keep in your medicine cabinet:

- Adhesive bandage tape
- Butterfly closure bandages
- Compression bandages
- Cotton balls
- Cotton pads
- Cotton swabs
- Gauze
- Metal bandage clips
- Waterproof adhesive bandages

Medicine cabinet essentialsPhoto: wojciech_gajda/iStockphoto

More health tips

Medicine cabinet essentialsPhoto: Glow Images
This article was originally published on Nov 18, 2012

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with your baby's development, get the latest parenting content and receive special offers from our partners

I understand that I may withdraw my consent at any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.