Stocking Your Medicine Cabinet

We had an incident the other night that involved one of my twin boys. He had his thigh cut open and required 11 stitches to close the wound. It was one of the moments I was grateful I had Army medical training. There was screeching and blood was everywhere. I was also thankful for an former ER nurse husband who very calmly scooped up my son, expertly wrapped the wound and said, “ER now, stitches needed.”

My son is now fine and proudly says, “I’m going to have a scar for the rest of my life!” Boys.

But it got me thinking. We have a fairly well stocked medicine cabinet and thanks to Army Medical Command, a lifetime supply of Motrin.

I asked my nurse friends what constitutes a well stocked medicine cabinet for home use. A few referred me to the Red Cross web site and although I thought it was a good basic list, it needed some expanding. Here is a revised list that is calculated for a family of four. You can adjust up and down depending on your needs.


  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch) or silk tape.
  • Coban or self-adhesive dressing (Very helpful if you need to add pressure to a wound)
  • 4×4 and 2×2 sterile dressings.  (The ones that are individually wrapped are sterile.)
  • Tube of antibiotic ointment like bacitracin or neosporin.
  • 0.9% Saline for flushing wounds to remove foreign bodies such as Amerigel
  • Soap and water for cleaning all wounds. (Never cleanse wounds with rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or iodine as it can damage underlying tissue and delay healing.)


  • Children’s Motrin and Children’s Tylenol. These can be given alternatively to keep children’s fevers down. Check with your pediatrician for dosages.
  • Adult Motrin…200mg tablets.
  • Adult Tylenol


  • Imodium
  • Pedialyte (can be given to children and adults). We keep ours in the fridge as it tastes much better cold.
  • Pepto-Bismol- works for both upset stomach and mild diarrhea.
  • Candied ginger or mint tea for nausea. (We swear by candied ginger)


  • Adult Benadryl
  • Children’s Benadryl (again check with your pediatrician on dosages)
  • Cortaid or topical itch cream (Hydrocortisone 1% ointment).
  • Zyrtec (Cetirizine)  is a non-drowsy anti-histamine similar to Benadryl
  • Cornstarch (used for chafing and as a first line of defense against contact dermatitis before using the topical itch cream)

Good to Have Items:

  • 1 space blanket
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  • 1 instant cold compress & 1 instant heat compress (more are better)
  • 2 pair of non-latex gloves (size: Medium unless you have huge hands)
  • Children’s nasal syringe. I really like the nosefrida for kids under 4
  • Nasal saline spray like Simply Saline
  • Rubbing alcohol wipes for cleaning thermometers.
  • Scissors
  • Headlamp
  • Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
  • Oral Medication syringe with child medication administration
  • Sam splint
  • Ace bandage
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • Tweezers

Thank you very much to Kurk Harris RN, BSN and Jenn Easley MSN, CRNP for their invaluable input to this list. Both Kurk and Jenn are Army nurses who are combat veterans of Iraq and in Jenn’s case, Iraq and Afghanistan.

4 thoughts on “Stocking Your Medicine Cabinet”

  1. I would also include hydrogen peroxide, witcheck hazel and I’m big into natural things as well. So tea tree oil and a remidies kit. To be basic. You can also in an emergency use sanitary pads as a compress on a large wound so they can have a dual purpose in a medical bag.
    Oh and bug spray, suntan lotion and burn gel and after sun care.

    Lol well anyway I am an over thinker so my bag is full of stuff. Great article! It is so important to have an emergency kit with you that is well stocked especially if you have children!


  2. This is a great list, Gabrielle. Honey is wonderful for scraped knees. What is the cornstarch used for? Thanks for sharing with Thankful Thursdays.


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