Medicine Cabinet Must-Haves For Kids Of All Ages

medcabinetIf you’re like many of us, your first aid supplies (such as they are) are scattered all around the house.

A two-year-old bottle of Tylenol infant drops in the kid’s bathroom, a box of band-aids in the junk drawer in the kitchen (well, that’s where I use them, right?), and a tube of Neosporin in the cabinet below the sink in the master bath.  And the Ipecac?  Damn! Where did I put the Ipecac …?  Sound familiar?

Get ready, Mama, ’cause your medicine cabinet organizer is here with a list of essentials for your family and an easy way to keep ’em handy.

Fever and Pain Relievers:

Acetaminophen and ibuprofen (Tylenol and Motrin/Advil) are safe and effective for kids and adults when given in the correct dosage.  Make sure you have dosage forms appropriate for each child. As of July 2011, infant concentrated drops are being phased out in the United States and replaced with less-concentrated form of the medicine. The concentrated drops are still safe to use as long as the dose is correct..  Follow age and weight instructions on the package carefully. More is NOT better, and under-dosing is the same as flushing it down the toilet.  Do NOT give aspirin to children with fever, due to risk of Reye’s syndrome.

Cough and Cold Medicines:

Are no longer considered safe for children.  Severe illness and death have been reported in young children taking decongestant medications, so the risk clearly outweighs any symptomatic benefit.  If your child is drippy and congested you may still try children’s Benadryl, available in both liquid and chewables.  Follow dosage instructions carefully.  It also works well for allergies and itchy skin reactions. ALWAYS talk to your child’s doctor before treating an ongoing condition.

For Belly Aches:

Mylicon drops treat gas by breaking up air bubbles in the stomach and GI tract.  They’re not absorbed by the body, but do their work and then pass through.  Useful for gassy babies who swallow a lot of air drinking breast milk or formula.

Tums are chewable tablets made of calcium carbonate that help treat heartburn or acid reflux for kids over 5 and adults.  Added bonus — if they don’t help your stomach you still get extra calcium to help meet your daily requirement.

Children’s glycerine suppositories may be used occasionally to relieve acute constipation.  Used with caution because the rectum can become dependent on them.  If your child is constipated on a regular basis, discuss dietary changes with your doctor.

Use Pedialyte or other electrolyte solutions for children with vomiting or diarrhea to replace lost fluids.  Always check with your doctor if symptoms last more than 24 hours.

Skin, Rashes and Itch:

Sunscreen. Can we say it enough?  Use sunscreen.

Antihistamine cream, like Benadryl, can stop the itch from bug bites and minor rashes.

Diaper rash paste (Triple Paste and Butt Paste are two of my favorites) should be thick and form a barrier between the wet diaper and the skin.  Some diaper rash may be due to fungal infection, so ask your doctor for an anti-fungal that can be applied underneath.

1% Hydrocortisone cream can reduce inflammation and stop itching in kids over 2.

Neosporin or other antibacterial cream may be used to prevent infection on minor cuts and scrapes.

Hydrogen peroxide (that clear liquid in the brown bottle that fizzes when applied) has lots of uses!  It cleans bacteria from cuts and scrapes, can prevent or even treat swimmer’s ear, and is an all-around bacteria buster.  The fizzy action fascinates kids, too.

Band-aids, Gauze, and Equipment:

Never underestimate the healing properties of band-aids.  Multiply by 2 if they have Spiderman or Dora the Explorer on them.  Keep them handy in all sizes and shapes (very economical if purchased at the 99 cent store).

Two inch square gauze pads are useful when a band-aid just won’t cut it.  Always store small bandage scissors and gentle medical tape together with them.

Steri-strips are longer, thinner strips of reinforced medical tape that do a great job holding the edges of a cut when you’re worried it will open and start to re-bleed.  BUT always check with your doctor if you think stitches may be needed.

Tweezers are great for removing splinters.  Use magnifying glasses if you’re ‘of a certain age …’

Just For Kids:

Several thermometers, including at least one rectal for the most accurate temp.  The electronic ear type is fine if you like them and can get a straight shot at the ear drum.  The strips that you place on the forehead tend to be inaccurate.

A rubber bulb syringe is great for sucking runny mucous out of infant noses (as long as they’ll let you) and for irrigating almost anything with warm water.

Medicine measuring spoons and droppers.  Nothing’s worse than trying to get that teaspoon into a moving toddler.  How about 1/2 a teaspoon?

IPECAC used to be recommended for accidental ingestions of many kinds, but now is rarely usedBe sure and check with Poison Control or your doctor before giving it.

For a poison emergency in the U.S. call 1-800-222-1222

For Storage: Designate 2 places in your home for storage of medical supplies, and make sure both have child protection locks or are safely out of reach of the little guys.  One should be a handy kitchen spot set aside to hold the first aid items you use every day, like Tylenol, band-aids, and whatever other favorites you have.

For the rest, go to Target or Wal-Mart and buy a large plastic container with lid.  Organize your supplies inside by type, and store the container in your master bath.

Simple! If you use it everyday it’s in the kitchen, less frequently it’s in your bathroom (or wherever).  You’ll have what you need and never have to call out a search party for the Tylenol again.

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.


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The Mama ButtonThe information provided by MamasOnCall is not intended as a substitute for professional advice, but is for information purposes only. You assume full responsibility for the health and well-being of your family. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical or psychiatric condition.