Makeover Your Medicine Cabinet

Here's how to keep the contents of your medicine cabinet up-to-date.


At least twice a year, tackle the towers of pill bottles, ointments, and stray bandages lurking in your medicine chest.

First, toss any medicines that are discolored, cracked, or sticky from deterioration; past their expiration date; or have labels missing. Flush the pills down the toilet to keep them away from children or pets.

After removing old medications, Jeanelle Lund, a pharmacist at the University of Washington, recommends that every family stock their cabinet with the following:

  • Pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen. (Avoid giving children and teenagers aspirin; studies show a link between aspirin and Reye's syndrome, a potentially fatal condition.)
  • Adhesive bandages and sterile gauze pads.
  • Ipecac syrup for forcing vomiting in accidental poisonings. (Use only with direction from a poison control center.)
  • An antihistamine, in pill or liquid form, for allergic skin reactions and itching.
  • Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection of minor cuts.
  • A list of emergency phone numbers, including police, fire, doctor, ambulance, hospital, and poison control center. Keep a duplicate list near your phones.
  • Antibacterial soap for disinfecting cuts.
  • Sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
  • A chemical ice pack for sprains.
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