Organize Your  Medicine Cabinet

It may be February, with the promise of Spring right around the corner, but the cold and flu season is still upon us. Here are a few tips for keeping your medicine cabinet well-stocked and useful.


Every well-stocked medicine cabinet should have the following items:

  • Analgesic
  • Antacid
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Anti-diarrhea medicine
  • Antihistamines (both topical and internal) for allergic reactions
  • Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
  • Bandages
  • Cold/flu medication
  • Cold sore medication if anyone in the family is prone to them
  • Cortisone cream
  • Cotton swabs
  • Cough syrup/drops
  • Decongestant
  • Deodorant
  • First-aid supplies
  • Floss
  • Hand lotion
  • Ibuprofen or other pain reliever/anti-inflammatory
  • Laxative or stool softener
  • Lip balm
  • Mouthwash
  • Nail clippers/scissors/file
  • Nasal spray
  • Prescription medications as needed
  • Razor blades (refills)
  • Shaving cream
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Vitamin supplements
  • Thermometer
  • Dosing cup or spoon

Periodically empty your medicine cabinet (about every six months) and sort through what you have.

  • Discard expired medications (the best way is to flush them down the toilet so children or pets don't find them in the garbage.) If you can't find an expiration date, but you've had the medicine for at least two years, discard it. Chemical changes over time can change the effectiveness of medications.
  • Discard any prescription medications you have not taken in over a year. These also have a limited shelf life and can undergo chemical changes.
  • Discard any medication without a label.
  • Discard old toothbrushes
  • Discard rusty nail clippers, tweezers, etc.
  • Place often-used items near the bottom of the cabinet, and less-used items at the top.
  • Place bottles and boxes with labels outward so you can easily locate what you need.
  • If more than one person uses the medicine cabinet, store each person's prescription items on a different shelf. With prescription bottles from the same pharmacy all looking the same, one can easily grab the wrong bottle in the middle of the night and take the wrong tablets if they look similar to their own.
  • Call your pharmacy for refills of prescription items when you notice you are down to about five pills. The pharmacy will have it ready for you on time, even if they have to order it from their supplier or call your physician for refills. Never wait until you take the last pill. Something may come up that day which will prevent you from picking up your prescription when you need it.
  • Use plastic cups or containers for small items such as ointment tubes, cotton swabs and nail clippers.
  •  Store like items together--hair care, skin care, etc. Discard any cosmetics over a year old.

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