How to Prevent Medical Emergencies

The New Year is a great opportunity to clean out and restock your medicine cabinet.  Like a refrigerator, medicine cabinet supplies pile up. Those supplies can often expire and are not recommended for use anymore.

medicine cabinet“You should do this once a year, at least,” said ACEP spokesperson Dr. Nick Jouriles.  “A year’s worth of showers and baths create heat and humidity that can cause some drugs to lose potency.  It’s good to get rid of them and replace them if they need to be replaced.”  If a pill loses potency, you may not be getting the necessary dosage of medication.  Holding on to several old prescriptions can also increase the risk of taking the wrong pill.

A bathroom medicine cabinet is not always the best place to store over-the-counter or prescription medications.  Instead, keep them in a linen closet or a dark area, especially away from children.  According to a recent article in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, poison centers reported thousands of very young children accidentally ingesting medications prescribed to adults in their households.


You should also be thinking about what essential things are good to always have in your medicine cabinet.  They include:

  • Adhesive bandages of assorted sizes (to cover minor cuts and scrapes)
  • Gauze pads (to dress larger cuts and scrapes)
  • Adhesive tape (to keep gauze in place)
  • Thermometer (do not use mercury-based thermometers)
  • Alcohol wipes and hydrogen peroxide (to disinfect wounds)
  • Up-to-date prescription and over-the-counter drugs
  • Antibiotic ointment (to disinfect and protect wounds from infection)
  • Antacid
  • Antihistamine (for allergic reactions)
  • Hydrocortisone cream (to relieve irritation from rashes)
  • Decongestant (be mindful of dosages for appropriate ages)
  • Acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin(note:  aspirin should not be taken by children or teens under age 19)
  • Antiseptic wipes (to disinfect wounds or clean hands)

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