Wellness Wednesday: The Medicine Cabinet 

A well stocked medicine cabinet will help your family feel their best. It will also help them get better more quickly from everyday ailments like colds and minor injuries. Here are some dos and dont’s you will want to know when playing doctor. 

First the dont’s. 

  • Don’t keep any out of date medications, prescription or otherwise. 
  • Don’t disregard handling instructions. Some prescription medications require refrigeration. 
  • Don’t store medications of any kind in unlabelled bottles. Throw out anything whose identity is the least bit uncertain. 
  • Don’t fail to take your whole prescribed course of medication. You will not get better as quickly. Even worse, in the you may foster the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Think about it. If you only take the first 4 days of a seven day course of antibiotics, you will kill all the easily killed bacteria, and leave the more resilient ones to repopulate your body. If you take all your medications correctly, you should not have any “ left over” in the first place. 
  • If you had surgery or an injury, and you were prescribed narcotic pain pills, use them only when you need to. If you are better and no longer need them, dispose of them. Don’t keep them just in case. 

How do you dispose of old medications ? It turns out this is not as easy as it sounds. 

Check out this comprehensive guide from the Food and Drug Administration. 



Now the Do’s 


Do have simple non-narcotic pain relievers handy and in their original bottles.

  • Acetaminophen, aka tylenol for aches, pain and fever. Can be taken on an empty stomach and during pregnancy. 
  • Ibuprofen, aka motrin or advil also for aches pain and fever, but with an anti-inflammatory component as well. Should not be taken on an empty stomach or during pregnancy. 


Do have upper respiratory remedies. 

  • Nasal decongestant for daytime (These are non sedating.) 
  • Nasal decongestant for nighttime. (These can be the sedating ones)
  • Cough suppressant i.e. dextromethorphan 
  • Zinc containing cough lozenges which are low on sugar. 
  • Lots of herb teas and broth mixes for hydration. 
  • Lots of kleenex, and a reliable thermometer. 
  • A peroxide containing mouthwash for use after brushing and flossing, but just before bed. (Key to prevent and kick those sore throats ! ) 

All of these measures will actually help you get better more quickly as well as provide comfort. Most upper respiratory infections are viral and self limited and do not require antibiotics. However,  but if one is bad or persistent, call your doctor. There is no reason to hesitate. 


For allergic reactions: 

  • Benedryl capsule in case of a minor allergic reaction like rash. They are sedating. 
  • EPI pens if anyone has a serious allergy or asthma or lives in a place where there are bees or other stinging species (OK everyone should have an EPI- pen in their house.).  Consult with your doctor about this since they will need to order it. 


Stomach rememedies are trickier.

  • Tums or Rolaids are not the best for heartburn, since they are calcium carbonate. These give short term relief of stomach acid, but then go on within the hour to stimulate the production of more gastric acid. Try prilosec OTC. Speak to your doctor if stomach acid symptoms are more than a rare event. 
  • For loose stools, do not automatically turn to Lomotil. You can make yourself sicker this way. The cause of lose stools must be determined before a motility lowering agent can be given.
  • DO push liquids by mouth and by soaking a tub of water to stay hydrated until you can get care and get better. Liquids which contain a little something ( electrolytes, sodium, sugar) are best. Think broth or soda water with fruit juice. Elelctrolyte replacement drinks are ideal. 


For skin, eyes, hair and teeth : 

(All these should be junk free, and by that I mean free of artificial fragrance, coloring, etc)

  • Gentle cleanser 
  • Gentle exfoliating scrub 
  • Moisturizer for face and some for body; For body I prefer a mix of cocoa butter and coconut oil. 
  • Alpha hydroxy acids are evidence based treatments for the younger set.
  • Retinoids and vitamin C serums are evidence based treatments for the over 40 crowd.
  • Strong water resistant sunscreen in plentiful quantity, as well as sunscreen lip balm. 
  • 1% hydrocortisone cream for minor rashes where skin is intact. This will suppress itching but impair healing, so use it sparingly and wash your hands afterwards. 
  • Eye moisturizer in little sterile vials for dry eyes or to help with removal of a foreign body, 
  • Bandaids, tape, gauze, antibiotic ointment for cuts and scrapes. You do not need alcohol for wounds, or even peroxide. Minor wounds are best cleaned with warm soap and water. Anything more extensive goes to the doctor. 


Did you know oral health is key to avoiding other illnesses ? Do stock the following: 

  • Toothpaste with fluoride and some grit 
  • Wide waxed dental floss for use every night, maybe even when you are in the shower. 
  • Peroxide containing mouthwash

For Hair: 

  • Shampoo, used gently and only at the scalp if your hair really needs it ( Dry hair does not ! ) 
  • Conditioner, every time, for all hair types. 


This should be a good start to your well stocked medicine cabinet. 

Next week we will have a little more fun and talk more in depth about hair health.