What to Keep in the Medicine Cabinet

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Walking into a pharmacy can be overwhelming and intimidating. This task becomes even more daunting when you are preparing for a new addition to the family or you have a sick child at home.

Like prescription medicines, over-the-counter medications can be dangerous if not taken properly. These medicines help symptoms, but may not shorten the course of the illness. Most pediatric medicines are dosed by weight or age. Make sure to follow instructions on the box and ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions.

Following are suggestions for what to stock in your medicine cabinet for when it’s needed.

Sick Days

For fevers and pain: Use acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Never give ibuprofen to a baby younger than 6 months. If your child has kidney problems, asthma or ulcers, ask a doctor before giving ibuprofen. Don’t give acetaminophen or ibuprofen at the same time as other over-the-counter medicines, unless instructed by your doctor. Never give aspirin to your child unless the doctor tells you it’s safe.

Decongestants: Pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine is a good choice for children over 6 years old.

Cough medicine: For dry coughs, look for the cough suppressant dextromethorphan. If the cough is producing mucus, use guaifenesin to loosen secretions for children over 6 years old. Never given cough medicines containing honey to infants younger than 1 year old.

Antihistamines: Diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine relieve sneezing and a runny nose from allergies, but can cause drowsiness. Loratadine is nonsedating.

Thermometer: The oral, electronic type is accurate and durable. For babies, rectal thermometers are most accurate. Any baby under 30 days old should see a doctor if they have a fever higher than 100.4 degrees rectal.

Glucose-electrolyte solution (Pedialyte): Keep on hand for children under 1 year old for severe vomiting or diarrhea.

The Itchies

Calamine lotion: Soothes itching from rashes and bites.

Antihistamine cream: Relieves itching from bug bites or topical rashes.

Cortisone cream: Use 1 percent cream or ointment for a persistent itch.

Antifungal cream: Use for athlete’s foot, ringworm and jock itch.

Sunscreen: Choose SPF 30 or greater.

Mending Boo-boos

Bandages: Keep gauze pads and medical tape on hand.

Hydrogen peroxide: Good for cleaning wounds before bandaging.

Antibiotic ointment: Bacitracin or triple antibiotic ointment can protect a closed wound or a minor burn.

Dr. Meaghan Keller is a pediatric resident at Carolinas Medical Center, and Dr. Erin Stubbs is a board-certified pediatrician at CMC Myers Park Pediatrics.