Medicine Cabinet Must-Haves

Medicine cabinet

Your medicine cabinet is your first line of defense in times of illness or accidental injury, and sometimes gets overlooked. This list will help you understand what supplies to keep stocked ensuring you are fully prepared for that unexpected headache, onset of a cold, upset stomach, or scraped knee.


A fever is a symptom of an underlying illness, often an infection, and is a sign that something out of the ordinary is going on. Having a working thermometer on hand can help you gather information and inform next steps – whether to see a doctor or monitor other symptoms. Ensure to check temperatures before taking any pain or fever reducer.

Pain and Fever Relief

It is recommended to keep multiple forms of pain relief in your medicine cabinet. These medications include acetaminophen and ibuprofen and are both powerful fever reducers and muscle pain relievers. Important to note, aspirin must never be given to children under the age of 16, and ibuprofen should not be given to children under 6 months of age. These types of over-the-counter medications can easily help tackle a sore throat, fever, and muscle sprain.

Cough, Cold and Flu

It is important to note most coughs go away on their own without the need for treatment. But for a cough which keeps you from sleeping and is constant throughout the day, dextromethorphan can reduce the coughing symptoms. Congestion is alleviated with decongestants like saline nasal sprays for children under 6 years of age, and/or pseudoephedrine, and phenylephrine.  An expectorant, guaifenesin, which thins out mucus, can also help with a productive cough and congestion.


Histamine is a compound your body releases when your immune system attacks an allergen, thus eliciting an allergic reaction. It is helpful to keep antihistamines in several forms – creams that you apply to the skin that soothes insect bites, rashes and itching, or tablets and liquids that you swallow that can control hay fever symptoms, and calm minor allergic reactions.


A well-prepared first aid kit to help in the treatment of minor cuts, sprains and bruises should include the following:

  • Bandages
  • Sterile dressings
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Tweezers
  • Aloe Vera

 Digestive Aids

Stomach and GI tract discomfort are common aliments and the cause is often unknown. Having a treatment on hand can be useful when aches arise. For digestive issues, these are the at-home medications you should have:

  • Antacids: Tums/Rolaids/Mylanta for mild, food-related heartburn that comes in chewable tablets, or liquid form.
  • Anti-diarrheal: diarrhea can lead to dehydration, and if it happens, ensure to keep loperamide (Imodium-AD) and aggressively rehydrate.
  • Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol): treats indigestion, heartburn, and the occasional bout of diarrhea
  • Constipation: docusate (Colace), or Miralax.

For someone struggling with stomach or GI discomfort these aids can make a huge difference.

Other Medication Tips

  • Avoid storing medication in the bathroom.
  • Create a list of medication expiration dates.
  • Ensure all medicine is out of reach of children.
  • Keep all items in the original packaging. The packing of most over-the-counter medication contains important information about directions for use and any possible side effects. Please carefully read each label before taking any over the counter remedies.

Finally, reach out to your pharmacist. Pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare provider and with their unique knowledge of medicines, pharmacists are your ally and major collaborator you should turn to when stocking your medicine cabinet or have questions on medications.

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Written by:Robert Squire, pharmacist at SpotRx

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