Stocking Up Your Medicine Cabinet For The First Time

Stocking Up Your Medicine Cabinet For The First Time

Your home should be your safe haven. Which is why it’s important to prepare our home with everything we might need to keep us comfortable and cared for. Most of us grew up in a home where our aches and ills were taken care of – bottles of sickly sweet syrups appeared, our temperature was checked, and we were bundled up in a bed to rest. But what now when you’re living on your own?

This post will help you stock up your medicine cabinet and put together a first-aid kit to help future-you get through any illnesses with ease.

Knowing what to buy

It’s tricky deciding what kind of medicine to buy when you’re not sick.

Let’s start with the basics. What are the most recent ailments you’ve suffered from? Try not to say this out loud…

For example if you’re asthmatic and need treatment for your asthma, it’s important for you to have a spare set of inhalers just in case you run out during the night or on the weekend. If you often suffer from migraines, it’s a good idea to stock up on the painkiller or other treatment that works for you. The last thing you want to do when a migraine hits you is go to the pharmacy or wait until someone can go to pick up your prescription.

When it comes to keeping items in case you feel ill, you may want to consider medicines you have used before such as paracetamol, over-the-counter cold and flu preparations, antihistamines (for allergies), and antacids. Always consult your doctor or pharmacist for the best use of these and to ensure that the medicines you keep are right for you.

Got a doctor’s note?

With prescription-only items, such as the contraceptive pill or antidepressants, it is essential to keep an eye on your current pack so that you can get a new one in good time. It may be easier to make a monthly reminder to make sure you are stocked up.

Thinking ahead

Let’s first assess the safety of your new home. Since most accidents happen at home, how are you going to anticipate any potential risks? A first aid kit is only useful if it is kept well-stocked, checked periodically, and most importantly if you know how and when to use its contents.

Building a basic first aid kit

A basic first aid kit for the home contains:

  • Saline – a sterile solution of salt in water, used to clean wounds or irrigate the eyes
  • Adhesive plasters
  • Antiseptic spray or cream
  • Burns spray or cream, including a sunburn relief cream – this is an exception that you should keep in the kitchen for quick access if you get burned while cooking
  • Arnica or other ointment for bruising or spraining
  • Sterile gauze – to stop blood or cover larger wounds/cuts
  • Bandages in different sizes
  • Medical tape to keep bandages or gauze in place
  • Disposable gloves – to use when dealing with another person’s wounds
  • Hand sanitising gel – to act fast in getting your hands clean
  • Thermometer
  • Tweezers – to remove splinters from the skin
  • Blunt tip scissors – for cutting gauze and medical tape
  • Oral rehydration salts – to be used when there is dehydration caused by vomiting, diarrhoea, or excessive sun exposure
  • Cold compress – instant compress or a reusable one that should be kept in the freezer
  • First aid instructions booklet
  • List of items in the box – to help you check that nothing is missing

How to store your medicine

Most people keep medicines and first aid kit items in their bathroom cabinet, but this is not the right place. Bathrooms tend to get hot and humid when taking showers or running water, and this may affect the condition of the medicine. For these same reasons, the kitchen is not the right place either.

Thanks to Malta’s climate, realistically most places are not ideal for medicine storage. Keep your items in a cool, dark place such as a cupboard in the bedroom.

Make sure everything is still labelled properly and go through the items periodically to see whether anything needs discarding (then take these items to your pharmacy for proper disposal) or replacing. If you are unsure what an item is for, simply ask your pharmacist the next time you visit. Always keep your medicines out of sight of and access to children.

Keeping your medicine organised

Get familiar with the items when you purchase them, and read the first aid instructions carefully well before you need to use the items. Replace the items in your first aid box when you use anything, and re-visit the box every now and then to check that expired items are replaced.

Sharing ain’t caring

You should never pass on medicines to a friend or family member without consulting your doctor or pharmacist, even if they appear to have the same symptoms as you did. Underlying conditions (that you may not know about) might make a medicine that seems innocuous dangerous when given inappropriately.

A little bit of planning can go a long way when it comes to preparing your new home for illness and accident. It is an integral part of creating a space you feel comfortable in, and although you cannot be ready for all eventualities, you can at least have the peace of mind of mitigating some emergencies before you can get professional help.

Miriam Calleja is a pharmacist and bilingual author from Malta with a keen interest in public health and patient communications. She enjoys using her creative skills to explain complex ideas and make information more accessible to all through her medical writing. She has recently published the book ‘COVID19 and the Virus that Shook the World’ (Oppian Press, 2020) which has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, and Finnish. Her other medical writing can be found here.