Help me stock my medicine cabinet...
May 19, 2008 12:38 PM   Subscribe

What should a well-stocked medicine cabinet contain?

I recently cleaned out my medicine cabinet, and finally threw out years of expired, largely unused junk. The only items that survived the purge were a box of band-aids, a tube of neosporin, and a bottle of Excedrin Migraine. I am starting with a clean slate.

It's just me and my husband, no kids. So what should two reasonably healthy adults really keep on hand in the medicine cabinet?

From what I could tell in my searches, previous AskMe questions were specific to babies and/or were focused on the larger issue of spending leftover FSA funds. Google has turned up very little (mainly survival-oriented first aid lists). That's a start, but I'm looking for something a little more comprehensive than just a first aid kit.

If you can point me to a really good, everyday, household-oriented list that's not focused on small children, I'll take it. Otherwise, I'm looking for specific recommendations for what a well-stocked medicine cabinet should or should not include.

Without some kind of guidance, I'm afraid I'll end up buying one of everything at, and in a couple of years I'll be throwing out another garbage bag full of barely used, expired stuff. Please save me from myself.
posted by somanyamys to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Hydrogen Peroxide. Tweezers (get a really good pair).
posted by contessa at 12:45 PM on May 19, 2008

Immodium, Pepto Bismol, Tums/Rolaids, and some sort of anti-itch cream
posted by pointystick at 12:49 PM on May 19, 2008

Best answer: i figure it's wise to keep anything on hand that you don't want to have to go out in the middle of the night to get. so: tylenol for fevers, ibuprofen for other pains, a decongestant, an antihistamine, bandages, tweezers, alcohol or peroxide, tums and/or rolaids, and pepto bismol or kaopectate.
posted by thinkingwoman at 12:51 PM on May 19, 2008

• Isopropyl alcohol
• Large sterile pads and tape to bandage larger wounds
• Maybe some hydrogen peroxide for cleaning cuts and wounds (though I have read elsewhere that peroxide may not really work well for that)
• We always have some sort of nighttime cold medicine on-hand, too. Something that clears the head and helps with the sleeping.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:51 PM on May 19, 2008

Vapo Rub
posted by pieoverdone at 12:51 PM on May 19, 2008

Something that clears the head and helps with the sleeping.

A mini bottle of whisky is always a nice finishing touch for a first-aid kit/medicine chest.
posted by kmennie at 1:00 PM on May 19, 2008

Acetominophen, aspirin, Tums, pepto bismol, Benadryl, tweezers, assortment of gauze, band-aids, and tape, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, unused sewing needle or pin for going after small splinters, magnetized shop tool (don't know the name, but your mechanic will) for removing metal splinters from skin, small razor-sharp knife, ACE bandage(s), aloe stuff for suburns, sewing kit plus unflavored unwaxed floss = DIY temporary stitches, etc.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:07 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Toothache kit that includes clove oil.

Eye wash with eye cup.
posted by cda at 1:16 PM on May 19, 2008

Best answer: i recommend some sort of burn cream or gel. I guess somthing for a sunburn would help, but they do make things for contact burns... you never know when you might get hit with boiling water or accidentally grab a hot baking pan. I got splashed with tiny bit of boiling water making pasta just this afternoon and it really hurt! I was thinking "wow if I had turned this pot over on my hand I wouldn't have ANYTHING to put on it and would have to ask metafilter what were some good home remedies for a burn!"
posted by fogonlittlecatfeet at 1:16 PM on May 19, 2008

By the way, if you're talking about your literal medicine cabinet, as in a cabinet in your bathroom, you should not keep any pills or other medications in it. Because the bathroom gets hot and steamy during showers and then cools down rapidly, plus is very humid on a daily basis, medications and other perishable items stored there lose potency faster than items stored in climate controlled environments. All medications should be stored in a cool, dry place, not in your bathroom, so that they stay good until their expiration dates. Once they reach their expiration dates, you should toss them (not because they'll poison you or something, but just because that's when they tend to start to lose potency).
posted by decathecting at 1:20 PM on May 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

Hydrocortisone cream/spray for bad bugbites and itchiness.
posted by rancidchickn at 1:21 PM on May 19, 2008

Cough syrup and some cough drops. Nothing keeps me awake like a cough.
posted by OmieWise at 1:24 PM on May 19, 2008

A thermometer. Neosporin. Pepto bismol. Sudafed PE for a sudden flu.
posted by prefpara at 1:35 PM on May 19, 2008

Best answer: Think of something for every exigency.
Here's my barebones list:

> Aspirin (also make sure you have something -- Tylenol or Advil) if your guests are allergic to aspirin)
> Exederin

Cuts & Burns
> Band-Aids
> Neosporin and/or rubbing alcohol (no need to go higher than 70%)
> A couple of big bandages & tape

> Aleve
> Pads & Tampons

> Peptobismol or Tums
> Baking soda

Cough, Cold & Fever
> Nyquil
> Robitussin
> Tylenol
> Thermometer
> Cough drops

Allergy & Sinus
> Benadryl (sneezing, congestion)
> Sudafed (congestion, especially before you get on a plane)

epsom salts for soaking splinters & ingrown toenails
heating pad or hot water bottle

What you don't need:
Qtips -- clean your ears in the shower!
posted by MaddyRex at 1:36 PM on May 19, 2008

Ibuprofen (general soreness, swelling), H2 antagonists (eg pepsid), aloe, hydrocortisone, benadryl, phenylephrine (stuffy nose). I have allergies (and you never know when a guest will start sneezing at something) so I keep some generic claratin (loratadine). Some dextromethorphan ('tussin) syrup or pills for when you have a cough. Tylenol (acetaminophen) for headaches (tends to work a bit better that ibuprofen).

Soreness, heartburn, headaches, burns, allergies, colds, and coughs covers it for me mostly, and there you've got something for everything. I used to have ipecac for poisoning, but it's been shown to be ineffective/harmful. Multivitamins are nice, but I don't know if you'd keep that in there. Living northerly, I like to take a D supplement in the winter.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 1:39 PM on May 19, 2008

Best answer: I'm a big believer in non-latex sterile gloves. You never know when you'll end up having to patch up a friend or neighborhood kid and gloves are a must have when blood is getting everywhere from a cut knee or finger.

I also love medical super glue for small cuts. Plus a wrap for sprains. And Epsom salts (great for soaking infected cuts, much better than anti-biotic cream IMO). And Tiger Balm.
posted by ChrisHartley at 1:51 PM on May 19, 2008

Why not buy most of it as you need it? You have bandaids. You need some tylenol or aspirin, maybe tweezers for splinters. Unless you live in a remote place, you can get to a store to get other stuff as needed. Bask in your good health.
posted by theora55 at 2:07 PM on May 19, 2008

I'm a big believer in keeping a PPI drug (OTC Prilosec) in the medicine cabinet for those three am searing bouts of reflux that seem to happen a couple times a year after a big social event or dinner.

And dental floss. It's uses are innnumerable.
posted by docpops at 2:45 PM on May 19, 2008

Best answer: "Real" Sudafed, if it works well for you. It can be a pain to find and purchase when you're sick with the new rules.
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:30 PM on May 19, 2008

rubbing alcohol
band-aids, sterile gauze, tape
antiseptic ointment

optional depending on lifestyle...
(cough stuff)
(aloe gel)
(bug-bite cream)
(bug repellant)
(styptic pencil if you shave with a razor)
(plain saline eye drops)
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:06 PM on May 19, 2008

Response by poster: Quick followup on a few comments:

The Red Cross Disaster Preparedness list is the first thing I clicked on when I googled, but that's a little more, um, disaster-oriented than I'm looking for here. The everyday stuff is really what I'm trying to figure out, and y'all are being hugely helpful so far, so thanks.

I love the idea of thinking in terms of what you wouldn't want to have to go out in the middle of the night to get. That helps immensely right there.

As for the location of this medicine cabinet, it's actually a shelf in the linen closet. Cool and dry. So no worries there.
posted by somanyamys at 4:06 PM on May 19, 2008

On the "no trips out in the middle of the night" principle, you might want some Tiger Balm or similar. It's not really what you'd call medicinal, but a sore muscle will keep you awake just as badly as an upset stomach, and it does help with those.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:52 PM on May 19, 2008

I may be a girl just out of college or something, but I feel like you might be able to be the ultimate host someday if you pick up an extra pee-stick pregnancy test and (to really go above and beyond) some plan B. You never know.
posted by crinklebat at 7:36 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

my fiance got a prescription for an epipen to keep around the house. it's true that it will probably expire before it's used, but you never know.
posted by brevator at 6:02 AM on May 20, 2008

Dr. Oz's Medicine Cabinet (Esquire, May 2008)
posted by kidsleepy at 7:35 AM on May 20, 2008

You don't need to throw things out once they're past their expiration date.
posted by andythebean at 8:21 AM on May 20, 2008

Please be cautious with Sudafed if you haven't taken it before. It gave me a heart arrhythmia.

I like Desitin (or other diaper creams) because if I have a rash, say from my bra rubbing me wrong, it usually clears up the irritation overnight.

Using a bulb syringe to squirt water in your ears is far safer than using Q-tips, as long as you don't have tubes in your ears or a hole in your eardrum.

If you are not the sort of person who keeps kleenex in your house (I know people like this), you might have a small pack in case of nosebleeds. It beats paper towels or TP.

If anyone has allergies to anything other than mold/pollen in your house, an epipen and some Benadryl would be a very, very good idea to keep on hand. The Benadryl is a good idea anyways... you never can tell when you'll develop an allergy. My mom became allergic to sulfa drugs after years of having taken them, and at the end of her 10-day course. She started breaking out in hives and took 2 Benadryl, buying us more time to get her to the hospital where her throat and tongue started to swell.

Artificial tears are nice when your eyes dry out and get sore, and they're gentler than regular Visine.

Get some good sore throat drops (I love Zetts, found at my local CVS) or Chloraseptic spray. If you get a really sore throat you'll be so glad you have them.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:42 AM on May 21, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, all, for the great answers. Some of this stuff, like epsom salts and tiger balm, never would have occurred to me. I've managed to narrow it down to a respectably sized list of "things we wouldn't want to have to go out in the middle of the night to get" + "things we'll use a lot." Results below.

burn gel
sterile pads
ace bandage
hydrogen peroxide
tweezerman tweezers


hydrocortisone cream
tea tree oil

excedrin migraine
epsom salts
tiger balm
thermacare wraps

cough drops
breathe right strips

artficial tears
auro dri
posted by somanyamys at 9:22 AM on May 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

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