Keeping Stocked: The Best Things to Keep In Your Medicine Cabinet

Springtime is here, and with it comes a good dose of cleaning for medicine cabinetmany people. As we reorganize and clean our homes, one thing that can go forgotten is the medicine cabinet. We do our best to keep a good stock of all the medical items we may need if we feel sick or are injured. Sometimes, however, you don’t always know that what you’re buying is the best. Which things should you have on hand? Furthermore, how often do we actually have to clear out old and unused medicines?

First of all, I’m going to go through the essentials of any well-rounded home medicine cabinet and suggest the best items for three major categories: First Aid for Emergencies, Pain Relievers & Common Ailments.

Of course you will want to consult your doctor or get to an emergency room if any of your symptoms are questionable or last longer than normal. But for those occasions where symptoms do not require professional medical attention, a prepared medicine cabinet can bring welcome relief and reduce discomfort.

First Aid items:

stocked medicine cabinet 02Not every cut, bruise or scrape requires a trip to the hospital. Having some of these items around will help you take care of minor injuries at home. Most people have a few Band-Aids, but creating a fully-functioning First Aid kit is the best way to ensure that you’ll always have what you need.

The American Red Cross suggests packing a First-Aid kit with the following items:


  • absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
  • 1 blanket (space blanket)
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  • 1 instant cold compress
  • 2 pair of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
  • Scissors
  • 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
  • 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  • Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • TweezersFirst aid instruction booklet

Click here to read more about making a first aid kit from the Red Cross


Beyond the standards of a First Aid kit, you’ll want stocked medicine cabinet 03to have a few pain relief medicines around. Everyone gets a headache from time to time, but there any many options for this type of pain relief. There are medicines that use Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Naproxen, and other chemicals. These medicines treat pain and swelling in the body. Several brands produce these medicines. I recommend Ibuprofen for most people, as it is the least invasive chemical and has excellent anti-inflammatory properties.



For stomachaches, keeping some Tums or stocked medicine cabinet 04other anti-acid product is a good idea. Sometimes a bismuth solution like Pepto-Bismol may be necessary for digestive problems like constipation and diarrhea, which are some of the most common symptoms of digestive illness.




It is also wise to keep an anti-histamine in stocked medicine cabinet 05the form of allergy medicine in case of exposure to an
allergy-inducing substance like pollen. If you have severe allergies in your family, make sure your prescription medicine, like an Epi Pen, is easily reached in a time of emergency.




Finally, having some anti-itch products for stocked medicine cabinet 06
insect bites and rashes is essential. Gold Bond powder and other similar products work well on rashes. I’ve found that a product for insect bites and poisonous plant rashes that works exceptionally well. This is call Ivy Dry and can be found in many stores around the country. I recommend keeping it with your important medicines.



Common ailments:

Beyond stomach issues, everyone gets sick once in a while. Usually this is in the form of a common cold or flu, and can be devastating when the illness takes you out for a few days. There are many remedies available, from vitamin powders to targeted medicines like DayQuil.

With cold medicines, most brands use the same or similar ingredients. You’d be surprised to note that store brand medicine often have the same active ingredients as brand names. You can usually save money just by noting the active ingredients in these medicines, and choosing the most cost effective brand.

For colds and congestion, powerful medicines like Mucinex work well, but can be pricey. You’d be best off with a store brand medicine that uses an analgesic (pain remedy) and an expectorant (for mucus). Some of these types of products include Dayquil, Robitussin, and their store brand equivalents.


When to Throw Them Out:

stocked medicine cabinet 07Having a well-stocked medicine cabinet is great, but only If you get rid of old medicines that have expired. Accidentally taking expired or medicine that is no longer useful can cause adverse health effects. It is important to routinely examine your medicines for any that have expired. Keeping your medicine cabinet well-organized will help with this process.

For prescription medications, you should dispose of them at a local pharmacy or drug take-back location rather than just throwing them away. This ensures that the medicines are properly and safely disposed of.

In a recent newsletter, I linked to an article about how to clean out your medicine cabinet. You can check out that article here

Hopefully you can keep an excellent stock of the right kinds of medicine at home for when you need them. If you have any questions about specific products, brands, or need any suggestions on keeping that cabinet stocked, please feel free to reach out with a comment or email.

Best wishes for spring,

Dr. Johnson