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A well-stocked medicine cabinet can prepare you for a whole swath of aches, injuries, and miserable symptoms.

But before you restock, take time to clear out some items. It may have been a while since you last updated the supplies in your bathroom, and there may be old or expired items that should be thrown out of your medicine cabinet.

Next, consider the fact that the medicine cabinet isn’t the best place to store medicines. Bathrooms’ heat and moisture often do not make ideal storage conditions.  A bedroom closet or nightstand might be a better option.

Wherever you keep your medical stash, it’s good to make sure you’ve got all the essentials on hand. Here are 21 items to consider keeping at home. Just remember to read to drug facts label on the package before you take any new medication. And if you have questions about a medicine, always ask your primary care physician or your pharmacist.

  • Digital thermometer – Especially important if you have a baby; for infants, a rectal reading is the most accurate.
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Antibiotic ointment for cuts and scrapes – Toss the tube and buy a new one if it touches an infected cut.
  • Scissors – One sharp pair plus a pair of safety manicure scissors.
  • Tweezers for removing ticks and splinters.
  • Alcohol wipes – These are safer than rubbing alcohol, which is poisonous if swallowed. Use them to clean thermometers, tweezers and scissors, and the skin around wounds. (Stick to soap and water on open cuts; alcohol hurts.)
  • Anti-itch topical cortisone cream or topical calamine lotion for insect bites and rashes. Never apply to a baby—who might lick it off—and don’t get it near the eyes (best to avoid the face altogether).
  • Child-safe insect repellent and sunscreen lotion
  • Acetaminophen – For babies under 35 pounds, make sure it’s infant-strength. Stick with the recommended dose—overdoses can cause liver damage.
  • Ibuprofen for children over 6 months only; adult-strength is OK for kids 12 and over.
  • Medicine dropper, oral syringe, or calibrated cup or spoon for administering medicines.
  • Saline nose drops (non-medicated) to help clear a baby’s nose.
  • Nasal aspirator (or bulb syringe), in case nose drops don’t work.
  • Seasonal allergy medication, if needed.
  • Oral rehydration solution, such as Pedialyte.
  • Teething gel – Stick to the recommended dosage.
  • Simethicone drops for gas
  • Sterile cotton balls, cotton swabs
  • Adhesive bandages in assorted sizes or gauze rolls, pads and adhesive tape. Small bandages can be a choking hazard, so watch your child closely.
  • Baby shampoo, moisturizing cream and mild liquid soap for a baby’s sensitive skin.
  • Cough and cold medicine

Be sure to keep all these items put away and in safe location, out of reach of children.

Sources:,,, Tylenol and Motrin Customer Service