Like that old pickle jar that's been sitting in the corner of your refrigerator for longer than you can remember, your medicine cabinet can collect older medications and supplies that may be expired and are not recommended for use anymore.
For good measure, emergency physicians recommend you clean out your medicine cabinet at least once a year. A year’s worth of showers and baths create heat and humidity that can cause some drugs to lose potency. It’s good to get rid of them and replace them if necessary. If a medication loses potency, you may not be getting the necessary dosage. Holding on to old prescriptions can also increase the risk of taking the wrong pill.
A bathroom medicine cabinet is not always the best place to store over-the-counter or prescription medications. Instead, keep them in a linen closet or a dark area, especially away from children. According to study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, poison centers reported thousands of very young children accidentally ingesting medications prescribed to adults in their households.
Here are the essential items you should always have handy in your medicine cabinet:
- Adhesive bandages of assorted sizes (to cover minor cuts and scrapes)
- Gauze pads (to dress larger cuts and scrapes)
- Adhesive tape (to keep gauze in place)
- Thermometer (do not use mercury-based thermometers)
- Alcohol wipes and hydrogen peroxide (to disinfect wounds)
- Up-to-date prescription and over-the-counter drugs
- Antibiotic ointment (to disinfect and protect wounds from infection)
- Antihistamine (for allergic reactions)
- Hydrocortisone cream (to relieve irritation from rashes)
- Decongestant (be mindful of dosages for appropriate ages)
- Acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin (note: aspirin should not be taken by children or teens under age 19)
- Antiseptic wipes (to disinfect wounds or clean hands)