A well-stocked medicine cabinet can be good for what ails you, local experts said, pointing to remedies that range from ibuprofen to a spoonful of honey.

For example, pull out the Vicks VapoRub for an adult’s mild cough, apply it to the soles of the feet then cover them with socks before going to bed.

“If you have a cough at night, it will help calm it,” said Dr. Richard Erickson, a family medicine physician in practice some 20 years.

Erickson treats all manner of maladies at the West Isle Urgent Care Center in Galveston and is quick to stress that medicine cabinet fare is 

no match for a doctor’s expertise. But for milder matters, he recommends keeping some tried and true tools on hand in the home.

Danny Resendez, regional communications specialist for the American Red Cross, recommends first-aid items for the medicine cabinet, including tweezers and instant cold packs. He also advises getting guidance from your smartphone.

“If you want to have first-aid tips available at the touch of a button, you can download the Red Cross app that has first aid and CPR instructions on it,” he said.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service advises keeping salt handy.

“Gargle with warm salt water a few times a day to relieve a sore throat,” editor Janet M. Pollard wrote in a health hints column.

Every home medicine cabinet will differ somewhat, Erickson said.

“What’s in it (the medicine cabinet) is going to be dependent on you as an individual; it depends on what kind of medical conditions you have, what allergies you have, what kind of medications you’re on and so forth because you don’t want to have interactions,” he said. “All that has to be taken into consideration.”

But for bottom line medicine matters, Erickson had some basic advice.

“If I were stranded on a desert island and could only bring a few medicines, what would I bring as far as nonprescription things go? Probably about 10 medications.”

They include ibuprofen, Benadryl, hydrocortisone cream, probiotics, anti-diarrheal medications, acetaminophen, cough medications, hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic ointment and non-sedating antihistamines.

He gives out his top 10 list with a repeated caveat: 

There is no substitute for seeing your physician, especially if you’re talking about high fever, bowel and bladder changes, things in general that seem severe,” he said.

“Getting home remedies is all fine, but you need to make sure that you see a physician if you’re having problems, and don’t delay until they get serious.”

Top 10 medicine cabinet must-haves

1) Ibuprofen (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory over-the-counter drug like Advil) will help with fever, inflammation and pain.

2) Benadryl (diphenhydramine) antihistamine can help with runny noses, colds, allergies, allergic reactions like hives, and bee stings. It can also reduce nausea and vomiting, help stop itching and even help you sleep (but is not to be used on a regular basis, and driving should be avoided after dosing on Benadryl).

3) Hydrocortisone cream can help relieve minor skin irritations, itching, and rashes.

4) Probiotics help replace lost beneficial bacteria and help support your digestive system. Popular sources are yogurt with live cultures, and dietary supplements.

5) Anti-diarrheal medications (check with your doctor about unexplained bowel and bladder changes)

6) Acetaminophen (Tylenol) — be careful not to overdose, and it’s not the best way to fight a hangover.

7) Cough medications with ingredients like dextromethorphan and guaifenesin such as Mucinex DM or Robitussin DM

8) Hydrogen peroxide for the initial cleaning of cuts

9) Antibiotic ointment

10) Non-sedating antihistamines

SOURCE: Dr. Richard Erickson

Odds and ends to have on hand

  • Pen and paper to keep a record of fever and other factors to tell your doctor when you call. Keeping a diary of things going on, including medications, food and activities, can help a doctor dig out a diagnosis.
  • A copy of “The Healthy Gut Workbook: Whole-Body Healing for Heartburn, Ulcers, Constipation, IBS, Diverticulosis, and More,” by Galveston physician Victor S. Sierpina
  • First aid items, including elastic bandages, ice bags or instant cold packs, gauze pads and band-aids. The American Red Cross sells several kits through its website, www.redcrossstore.org.
  • Scissors and tweezers
  • Thermometer
  • Locally produced honey for ages 2 and up to help relieve a cough tied to allergies
  • Steam sources, including chicken soup and a hot shower, to help with congestion and relieve sinus pain
  • Throat lozenges
  • Salt to make a warm salt water gargle — 1 teaspoon of salt per glass of water — for sore throats

(SOURCES: Dr. Richard Erickson, Danny Resendez of the American Red Cross and “Health Hints: Stocking Your Medicine Cabinet,” by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service)


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