The rights and wrongs of your medicine cabinet

It’s important the parade continues – but safely

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Many of us have a medicine drawer or cabinet.

If you are anything like me it fills up every time you can’t resist that offer on the newest ‘guaranteed to keep you healthy’ vitamin, or you start to feel unwell and pick up a cold remedy while you’re in the shop as you can’t quite remember the contents of your overflowing drawer. Who can guarantee anything they’ve got is still in date?

This week I found myself making an ideal medicine and first aid box for a friend and that got me thinking: what does an ideal, safe, medicine box that will tend to most of my day-to-day health needs look like?

The first thing to do is go through all the medicines in your designated cabinet or drawer. Make sure you check the dates on them first and that you do actually still use them – this includes any prescription medication you may have been taking. Anything that is no longer a requirement, or is out of date or unlikely to be used again, should be collected (keeping any sharps like needles separate) and taken to your local pharmacy where they will be disposed of safely.

The next thing to do is look at what is actually in there that you use regularly. Usually, the thing you rely on most is no longer there as it has been used up!

You should have a good first aid kit. Most supermarket or pharmacy bought first aid kits will have the dressings needed for an emergency situation. Remember, these are not a long-term solution but will help to dress a wound until it can be seen to by a health professional. Make sure you keep your first aid kit topped up regularly. You may also need to keep a separate stash of antiseptic wipes and a box of plasters as some kits are not very generous with their supply of these two items.

The second thing I have in my medicine drawer is some indigestion relief medication – just simple chew tablets or a tonic to help an upset stomach. These can generally be used by most people, provided there are no allergies to the ingredients.

It is an option to have some diarrhoea relief tablets. However the best thing is to let the bug pass out of your body, so blocking bowels is not always the best option. If you take regular medication please consult your pharmacist to see if indigestion remedies are suitable as they can block other tablets from being absorbed.

I recommend having an all-in-one cough and cold remedy plus a sore throat lozenge or spray. The all-in-one remedies usually contain a good decongestant, paracetamol or ibuprofen for the aches and pains. The sprays and lozenges help to numb the pain of a sore throat and start to kill the bacteria developing at the back of the throat. Again, it is essential that if you take regular medication you check whether these remedies are compatible with your medication.

I can’t be without a box of paracetamol – the safest pain relief tablet available. Ibuprofen is helpful for headaches provided you are not asthmatic, allergic to it, don’t suffer from high blood pressure and do not have a history of gastric reflux or stomach ulcers. For those of you who do fall into those categories, or don’t find paracetamol helpful, there are forehead sticks and cooling gel pads available.

For women who tend to suffer from cystitis a course of potassium citrate (liquid or sachets) is always useful to keep in stock.

Finally always keep in stock a good tonic to help give you a boost after periods of illness. They can be used daily to prevent illness but make sure you check the dose. These are usually safe for all but watch out for the sugar content, especially if you are diabetic. A nasal spray is available to help prevent illness as well.

So there we have it – a kit to see you through most of the day-to-day health troubles.