The healthiest medicine chest

Medicine Cabinet
Give your medicine chest a checkup and make sure it includes these 16 essential items.
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Every home should have a medicine cabinet fully stocked with the essentials. Although most bathrooms feature mirrored versions, the medicine cabinet over the sink can be the worst place to store medications. Humidity affects the potency of many drugs. Store them in a cool, dry, dark place, such as in a hall closet. Remember to clean out your medicine chest twice a year, says Pamela Peeke, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland, in Baltimore. Toss anything that is past its expiration date, including vitamins and first-aid kits. It's a good idea to keep over-the-counter products in their packaging, which often contains expiration dates, dosage and storage information.

Medicine chest must-haves

  • Aspirin. Relieves headaches, inflammation and swelling. Chewing aspirin at the first sign of a heart attack significantly boosts survival odds.
  • Cough medicine. The best choice is codeine-free, to avoid drowsiness.
  • Antiseptic (hydrogen peroxide). Prevents infection in cuts and scrapes. Can also be used as an ear wash, and as a mouthwash for people with periodontal disease.
  • Ibuprofen. Reduces fever and eases headaches, PMS, inflammation and swelling.
  • First-aid tape, gauze and adhesive bandages.
  • Chewable antacid. To relieve an upset stomach. Also doubles as a calcium supplement.
  • Hydrocortisone cream. Eases itching and inflammation; brings immediate relief to severely sunburned skin.
  • Tweezers.
  • Antibacterial ointment.
  • Non-drowsy decongestant.
  • Thermometer. Call your doctor if a fever rises above 102 degrees F., which may indicate serious illness.
  • Antidiarrheal. See a doctor if symptoms last more than a few days.
  • Sunscreen. Wear SPF 15 on exposed skin all year round. Besides preventing sunburn, it also increases effectiveness of insect-repellent creams.
  • Reusable hot/cold pack. For sprains and achy muscles. Cold packs also relieve the pain of first-degree burns when applied indirectly on skin; low-level warm packs help relieve menstrual cramps. --Margit Feury


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