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10 Essential Items For Your Medicine Cabinet

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Your medicine chest may contain everything from actual medicine to personal grooming items. But in this KERA Health Checkup, some ideas for what should be in the medicine chest from Dr. Shaun Murphy, a general practitioner and chairman of Dallas Medical Specialists. He told Sam Baker the most important item is a list of your prescription medications.

Dr. Murphy: I would say the name of the medicine, the strength of the medicine, why you’re taking it and how many times a day you take it. Also just out of convenience’s sake, your insurance information and anything that you’re allergic to medication-wise. It helps physicians out, it helps emergency personnel out. It’s important info to have and it’s easy for you if you know where it is.

Baker: You really shouldn’t have prescription medicines in the medicine chest. Is that true?

Dr. Murphy: True. Prescription medicines should be used for the person they’re prescribed for. So if we have some general use medications, some as-needed medication that is over the counter, we should keep that in one place and the prescriptions in another place.

Baker: The first thing on your list is disposable gloves, which wouldn’t have occurred to me.

Dr. Murphy: They’re not useful just for medical reasons – if you have to take care of something that’s bloody or potentially infectious, they’re good to have – but they’re also good to have around the house if you have to pick up something dirty, if you have to clean up after someone that was sick and you’re having to clean those bed linens.

Baker: Good multi-use item then. Ipecac?

Dr. Murphy: Ipecac is more for children, so if you call Poison Control and they say you need to induce vomiting, it obviously helps to have that.

Baker: You do have on the list pain relievers like Tylenol or Advil. What I don’t see on the list is aspirin.

Dr. Murphy: Aspirin isn’t the best of pain relievers. It does have some stomach side effects. If used in children who have fever, it can cause a condition called Reye syndrome. If you do have somebody who’s of the age to have a heart attack, having aspirin around isn’t a bad idea. A lot of those folks already have their medicines they take everyday and will already be on an aspirin.

Baker: I imagine anybody coming up with a list like this would have band-aids as you do. But you also recommend one related item here –

Dr. Murphy: A lot of us can be sensitive to the adhesive. With an older person, you can get some tearing of the skin. So if you have children around or people who are sensitive to band-aids then I recommend a gauze pad and a product like Co-Flex or Coban, which is a kind of self-adhesive ace bandage, so you can cover the area but not have any adhesive on the skin.

Baker: Benadryl?

Dr. Murphy: Benadryl is an antihistamine. Most commonly we use it to treat allergies; it’s sold over the counter as an allergy treatment. But its also one of the drugs we use to treat reactions. So if a patient calls me and says, “I feel like I’m having an allergic rash or allergic reaction,” a lot of times I’ll ask them to take Benadryl.

Baker: You also recommend a non-sedating antihistamine as well.

Dr. Murphy: Especially this time of year we see a lot of allergies. It’s nice to have in your cabinet something like Zyrtec or Claritin, or Allegra, that won’t make you sleepy that you can take during the day if the allergies are really getting to you.

Baker: And this is a huge problem for people. I’m often stunned at how many people complain of allergies.

Dr. Murphy: A lot of us have allergies, a lot of us think we don’t but we actually do. The medicine can really make a difference as far as how you feel that day and the amount of sleep you get.

Dr. Shaun Murphy is a general practitioner and chairman and medical director of Dallas Medical Specialists. 

Dr. Shaun Murphy’s List of Medicine Cabinet Essentials:

- Disposable gloves

- Ipecac (for kids): This causes vomiting, for cases in which a child eats something he or she shouldn’t, and there is a need to induce vomiting.

- Sunscreen

- Bug repellant/after bite spray

- Band-aids

- Coflex : a self-adhesive wrap. Some people are allergic to band-aids

- Hand sanitizer

- Benadryl

- Non-sedating antihistamine (for allergies)

- Pain reliever like Tylenol or Advil

- An information list in your cabinet, listing any medicines you take, allergies, and a copy of insurance card.

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