HOME MEDICAL KITS
Patrick O’Neil, PA
When it comes to medical kits for the home, there really are just two types: the first aid kit for trauma and the routine medicine kit for illnesses. I prefer to separate the two into different kits because I really don’t want anybody messing with the trauma kit. I have my trauma kit packaged the way I want it, ready for a trauma that I hope never occurs. Let’s face it, if the kit is for home use, this is one Aid Bag I hope I never have to open up! Heaven forbid I need to open it, but if I do need it, I don’t want to open it up and find out that one of the kids used the bandages for his mummy costume last Halloween. Bottom Line: I don’t want anyone messing around with an important piece of gear like a Trauma Bag.
That brings us to the family medicine cabinet, bag, box…..whatever you want to designate as the one-stop place for all your common cold and minor “boo boo” supplies. These are the items that will be utilized the vast majority of the time by the family members.
So, a few disclaimers here:
► Make sure these items cannot be reached by little ones. Children, and even some adults, simply cannot be trusted around common cold medicines. They will stick anything in their mouths, trying to relieve whatever symptoms they may be experiencing. When I ask patients what they are currently taking for their allergy or cold symptoms; it is unbelievable some of the stuff they are taking that either has no effect or actually makes the symptoms worse. Keep the meds in a place where RESPONSIBLE adults can get to them. If your significant other is a medication moron……you may have to lock these items up.
► Use the medications for their intended purpose. This may require you to actually look up some info on the internet or read the box. I know people that believe there are only two meds you need in the world: Dayquil and Nyquil. You use the first for Daytime and the latter for Night. It doesn’t matter what you have….these two are always taken. When I ask them why they chose those medicines, they simply say because they have day and night symptoms. Don’t worry, I will go over some meds and how to use them so your provider doesn’t fall off his chair laughing when you tell him what you were using. You can find the articles listed by symptoms.
► You should be very cautious when deciding to treat the neighborhood children! If your neighbor’s kids are over playing or spending the night, you might be tempted to give them a little something for the sniffles, a tummy ache, a headache, etc. ALWAYS call and ask their parents if it is OK for you to give them a medication, or else you are putting yourself at risk for a possible lawsuit. Let’s say you give Little Suzy a couple of Aspirin and she has a severe allergic reaction and dies. You are completely liable for that death. Depending on the state, they might even say you were practicing medicine without a license. Another option is to not treat them at all.
► Prescription medications are lawful to be used ONLY by the individual they were prescribed to. If you have severe pain and were given narcotics; don’t share those with other members of your family. Not only is it illegal, but narcotics have pretty profound side effects. Let’s say you give one to your spouse who had a headache. They then run an errand and are involved in a vehicular homicide. When the drug screen shows they were on a narcotic not prescribed to them, a whole can of whoop-ass is about to be opened up on them…..and the person that gave them the narcotic.
OK, I think that is enough of the preliminary advice. Let’s get to what items I think you should keep on hand.
Items for the Home Medical Kit
► Motrin: 1 bottle of tablets for adults; liquid for children
► Tylenol: 1 bottle of tablets for adults; liquid for children
► Flonase Nasal Spray: 1 bottle
► Antihistamine/decongestant combo: 1 box of Chlorpheniramine 4 mg/Phenylephrine 10 mg
► Delsym cough syrup: 1 bottle (dry cough) Don’t waste your money on other products. This one is the best for stopping a cough.
► Guaifenesin/Dextromethorphan: 1 bottle (wet cough)
► Loratadine 10 mg: 1 bottle/box (this is the generic form of Claritin for allergies and/or drying up postnasal drip.)
► Miralax or Magnesium Citrate: For Constipation. Mag Citrate works faster, Miralax is more gentle.
► Diarrhea: Imodium AD to firm up stool and decrease diarrheal episodes (See article on Diarrhea before using this)
► Chewable Antacid that contains Calcium: one package for acid reflux/heartburn
► Benadryl 25 mg: one bottle/package (I keep this around for insomnia or allergic reactions)
► Albuterol Inhaler: for use if you have somebody in the house that has asthma
► Epipen Injector: Spare in case you have someone with severe allergic reactions
► Triple Antibiotic Ointment: One tube for cuts and scrapes
► Bandaids: Get an assortment pack of different sizes (cartoon characters optional, but Batman is always a good choice!)
► Mylanta or Milk of Magnesia: 1 bottle for upset stomach. Helps calm down the “grumblies.”
► Meclizine 25 mg: 1 box for nausea
As for location, this is totally open to your desires. I personally use a cabinet in the kitchen and I put the items in small plastic bins with labels on them. The shelves are up high, so children cannot reach them. Bandaids and antibiotic ointment are in one bin; common cold stuff in another bin; acid reflux, heartburn, constipation and diarrhea meds in another bin. You get the general idea. Like items go together so it makes it easier to find when you need it.
One last comment: You should check the expiration dates on these items at least twice a year. I do it when I check the smoke alarm batteries. Some combine it with whenever they have to change out filters on their A/C or Heating units. However you want to do it is fine, as long as your remember to actually do it. It really is a bummer when you go to the medicine cabinet looking for an item, only to discover it expired a year ago.
There are several great books on home self-care. I think if I had to recommend a couple of books, “Take Care of Yourself” by Fries and Dickery. The other would be “Taking Care of Your Child” by Fries and Pantell. I find them to be easily understood and a great resource. You can get them for about $15 each.
For a different perspective, the site has articles on how I like to treat common ailments. I try to stick with over-the-counter medicines which will be available to everyone. Check them out. I think you will find them useful.