Mother holding son near open medicine cabinet When your child is sick or hurt, you have enough on your mind without trying to remember where the antibiotic ointment was left last or if the fever medicine is expired.

Anjuli S. Gans, MD, a pediatrician at CHOP’s Karabots Pediatric Care Center in West Philadelphia, provides a medicine cabinet checklist, along with advice to help parents and caregivers feel prepared to make their kids feel better fast.

Medicine cabinet checklist for children

To prepare for the inevitable cuts, stings and other minor childhood injuries, as well as those common bugs and viruses that rear their ugly head throughout the year, consider stocking your first aid kit with the following items:

  • Alcohol wipes
  • Water wipes
  • Neosporin
  • Bandages in a variety of sizes (fun prints are optional) – you may also want to have gauze for bigger cuts
  • Bug spray
  • Cortisone 1% ointment
  • Children’s pain/fever reducers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Children’s antihistamine such as Zyrtec® or Benadryl®
  • Self-adhesive wraps for minor sprains
  • Small bottle with water for rinsing cuts
  • Eyewash cup for eye injuries
  • Tweezers for removing splinters, ticks, thorns, etc.
  • Medication syringes (these are usually available free from your pharmacy if you ask)
  • Nasal saline drops or spray
  • Nasal suction device like a nose bulb or electric aspirator (for younger kids)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Clear fluids/electrolytes
  • Petroleum jelly products to add moisture to dry skin (i.e., Vaseline, Aquaphor)
  • Wipes and tissues
  • Waterproof sickness bags or a reusable container
  • Cough and throat soothers: For kids over 6 months, sips of warm apple juice can help with cough, congestion and sore throat; similarly, kids a year and older can benefit from a spoonful of honey — but check with your pediatrician before offering either of these.

You should also consider stocking items related to any risks specific to your family, an activity you’re engaging in, or a place you’re visiting. These items can run the gamut from EpiPens for a family member with significant allergies to vinegar for jellyfish stings.

An important reminder about children’s medications

“Children’s medication dosages are based on their weight,” Dr. Gans noted. “You’ll want to make sure you have the children’s or infant’s versions of medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen and antihistamines.”

Don’t store children’s medications directly next to any adult versions you have. Give them their own space in the medicine cabinet to reduce the chances of someone grabbing the wrong package by accident.

Make it mobile: Stock a portable caddy with all your go-to first aid supplies

So, you’ve stockpiled all the necessities – now what? Dr. Gans recommends keeping either a portable caddy or travel bag stocked with the first aid essentials listed above. It’s easier to find everything if it’s in one place. Having a portable kit also comes in handy when you’re packing for a trip.

It’s also a good idea to keep basic emergency information stashed in your portable kit so you don’t have to go digging through your phone or desk drawers. This can be as simple as an index card or small envelope with basic information such as:

  • A copy of your child’s insurance info
  • Phone numbers (including the after-hours number, if different) for your child’s pediatrician and dentist
  • The Poison Control Hotline (800-222-1222)
  • Contact information and address of your closest ER or pediatric urgent care
  • Your child’s current weight, for medication dosing

Keeping your first aid kit up-to-date and safely stored away

Every six months, check for any expired medications or medications with dosing meant for kids younger than yours are now, and throw them out.

If the expiration date isn’t clear, use your senses as a guide. Any medication that has changed color, texture or smell is compromised and should be thrown out. When in doubt, toss it. Old medications lose effectiveness and may even become dangerous.

You can prolong the life of most medications by storing them at room temperature and away from moisture/humidity. Which means your primary bathroom’s cabinet may be one of the worst places to keep first aid supplies. A nearby linen closet, powder room or similar central location is a better choice — just make sure everyone old enough to use the supplies knows where they are.

“Safely storing children's medications is important to prevent accidental ingestion. Keep medicine (including any vitamins or supplements) out of children's reach, in its original packaging and away from places that your children visit frequently,” said Dr. Gans. “A medicine lockbox can help a lot with this.”

When in doubt, talk to your pediatrician for advice! Some items that used to be staples in the family first aid kit are no longer recommended. For example, Dr. Gans said hydrogen peroxide can damage skin more than it helps. “Soap and water, an antibiotic ointment, and a band-aid are better ways to manage cuts or wounds,” she said.

You can read more of Dr. Gans’ tips by following her at Resilient Rascals on Instagram.

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