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Stocking Your Medicine Cabinet

Whether you’re looking for something to aid the common
cold, soothe a bee sting, or lower a child’s fever, an appropriately stocked medicine
cabinet is necessary for life’s emergencies-big and small.

"Before stocking the cabinet," says Mary
Lea Harper, Pharm.D., director of the University of Kentucky Hospital Drug Information
Center and associate professor in the UK College of Pharmacy, "first make
sure it is located in an appropriate place in the home that is out of reach of

The medicine cabinet also should be in a place that
is dry with a moderate temperature. "Keeping medications in a steamy bathroom
is not an appropriate location due to the moisture," Harper explains.

Every cabinet should include a first-aid kit with bandages,
alcohol swabs, and an antibiotic ointment. Keep an oral thermometer on hand, and
if infants or small children are in the household, stock a rectal thermometer,
Harper says.

Parents, grandparents, and others who have young visitors
to their home should post the poison control center phone number in the cabinet
for quick access in an emergency. A new nationwide phone system for poison centers
with a new phone number just went into effect in Kentucky and a few other pilot
states. Clip out this handy number and tape it inside your medicine cabinet now.

Liquid charcoal-useful in some poisoning cases-should
be kept in your medicine cabinet. However, do not use the product unless instructed
by the poison control center or your doctor.

Some basic over-the counter products suggested are
liquid or tablet antacids, and analgesics such as acetaminophen, aspirin, and
ibuprofen. When deciding on which analgesics are best for your symptoms remember
these general rules:

  • acetaminophen decreases fever and pain and generally is recommended for
    children and pregnant women
  • ibuprofen lowers fever, but also is an anti-inflammatory and commonly is
    used for pain
  • aspirin lessens pain and lowers fever, but generally should not be given
    to children unless instructed by a healthcare provider.

Other products to keep in the home for cold and flu-related
symptoms include a decongestant and antihistamine.

Keep in mind that generic drugs, in most cases, are
an alternative to name-brand medications and generally cost less, says Harper,
but you should make sure the ingredients are equitable.

Periodically check the expiration date on medications
and discard any that have expired.

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