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.