Tips for Parents: Managing Medications at Home

What to keep on hand and where not to store it

medicines in cabinet

Most people keep aspirin or other pain relievers on hand at home. But five simple products can upgrade your home’s over-the-counter medicine arsenal – and help you avoid an unexpected run to the drugstore when your child doesn’t feel well.

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Here is a list of over-the-counter products that pediatric pharmacist Holly Hoffmaster, PharmD, BCPS, suggests you stock at home:

  • Antihistamine medications – Keep these, such as Benadryl®, on hand for allergic reactions and colds. Severe allergic reactions, however, should prompt a call to the doctor because they can turn into a medical emergency – the throat swells and makes breathing difficult. If anyone in your home is prescribed a device like an EpiPen®, everyone should know its location and when and how to use it.
  • Rehydration fluids – This may include Pedialyte® to replace lost fluids and electrolytes if vomiting or diarrhea strike. “A lot of people don’t think along the lines of non-drugs like Pedialyte, but it is important to have to prevent dehydration which can lead to more health issues,” she says. Children especially can become dehydrated very quickly.
  • Over-the-counter medications containing acetaminophen or ibuprofen – Examples include Tylenol®, Motrin® or Advil® for pain relief, fever reduction and to reduce swelling.
  • An antibiotic ointment – Neosporin® or another germ-killing ointment is good to keep on hand for minor cuts and burns.
  • Saline nasal spray  — This can provide congestion relief and be used instead of cough suppressant.  “When children are coughing, we oftentimes want them to continue to cough because it will help to get rid of what is causing congestion, taking up space in their chest and blocking their airways,” Dr. Hoffmaster says.

Parents should know that it is very important to discuss the use of any medications with your child’s pediatrician ahead of time because some medications that are safe for adults are inappropriate to treat young children, Dr. Hoffmaster says.

Always look for appropriate doses for children and calculate the amount based on your child’s weight. If you have questions about medications, be sure to ask your pharmacist.

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Medicine cabinets are not for medicines

Despite their name, medicine cabinets are not a good place to store medicines.

Surprised? “It’s a common mistake,” Dr. Hoffmaster says. 

“Usually we think to put medicines in the bathroom, but it is not ideal because hot showers cause humidity that can affect the stability of medicine,” she says. “People also should not leave medications in the car because medications are not stable in extremely hot or cold temperatures.”

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Here are Dr. Hoffmaster’s recommendations for medicine storage:

  • Keep medication in a cool, dry place – not the bathroom
  • Observe expiration dates
  • Keep out of children’s reach

Dr. Hoffmaster suggests keeping medicine in high kitchen cabinets that maintain a cool temperature and are inaccessible to youngsters.

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