Early Spring 2007
Ask The Expert : A Well-Equipped Medicine Cabinet
A Well-Equipped Medicine Cabinet
Andrew Kenler, MD
Michael Werdmann, MD

My medicine cabinet is overflowing with stuff I’ve accumulated over the years. What are the really essential items that I should keep on hand, and what can I dump?

Michael Werdmann, MD, Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Bridgeport Hospital, responds:

It’s smart to review your medicine cabinet at least once a year. The following items are the ones you’re most likely to use. Having them on hand now will prevent drugstore trips at the most inconvenient times.

  • Ace bandages
  • Pain relievers (If you're over 40, include baby aspirin to take for an episode of chest pain while you are on the way to the hospital.)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol, etc.) for treating childhood fever
  • Band-Aids, adhesive tape, gauze bandages, wound tape (Steri-strip, butterfly bandages) for taping cut edges together
  • Antibiotic ointment (Neosporin, etc.)
  • Antihistamine (Benadryl, Chlortrimeton, etc.) for swellings, stings and allergies
  • Antiseptic to cleanse wounds
  • Cough medicines (one that suppresses coughs— look for dextromethorphan—and one that helps cough up phlegm. Read the labels.)
  • Decongestant (Sudafed or similar)
  • Diarrhea medicine (Loperamide)
  • First aid manual
  • Indigestion medicines (Maalox, Pepto-Bismol)
  • Insect repellant (Use non–DEET repellants for children.)
  • Sunscreen
  • Sore throat lozenges
  • Supplies: scissors, tweezers, calibrated medicine spoon, digital thermometer
  • Poison control telephone number (Connecticut Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222)

With these basic supplies, you should be able to treat most minor medical events.

What doesn’t belong in a medicine cabinet? Any medications that have passed their expiration dates and any medications in unlabelled bottles. Discard leftover antibiotics, because inappropriate use of antibiotics for viral infections is one of the reasons that more bacteria are resistant to the routine antibiotics that used to be effective. Also, don’t bother with ipecac and activated charcoal; they are no longer recommended for use when someone swallows a poisonous substance.

Caring for Your Life • www.bridgeporthospital.com