College Medicine Cabinet

Chances are good that you won’t have your own private bathroom with a medicine cabinet all to yourself when you go away to college. Nevertheless, you will need to have any medications you take and some first-aid essentials readily at hand. Here’s what to do:

Find a clean, sturdy, lightweight plastic container that opens easily to serve as your “home-away-from-home” medicine cabinet. (Bathroom medicine cabinets aren’t the best places to store medicines anyway since the damp humid air in them may cause ingredients in pills or capsules to change.) Keep your medications in this container, along with first-aid supplies (see list below). Also include emergency phone numbers for your local health care provider or the student health center, as well as the regional Poison Control Center. Stash this “home-away-from-home” medicine cabinet in a dry, dark place. Lock it if little kids are around.

The American College of Emergency Physicians suggests these items for a first-aid kit:


*Pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin. Check with your family health care professional or pharmacist to see which one they would recommend for you. Aspirin should not be used to relieve flu symptoms or be taken by anyone under 18. And, as is the case with most other medicines, pain medications—both prescription and non-prescription (over-the-counter)—should have their labels checked for any drug interaction warnings.
*Antihistamine for allergic reactions (speak with your health care professional about the best way you should treat an allergy)
*Adhesive bandages (assorted sizes) for minor cuts and scrapes
*Gauze in rolls or pads and adhesive tapes (to dress larger cuts and scrapes)
*Elastic wrap (for wrapping wrist, ankle, knee and elbow injuries)
*Safety pins
*Antiseptic wipes (to disinfect wounds or clean hands, tweezers or thermometer)
*Antibiotic ointment (to prevent burns, scrapes and cuts from becoming infected)
*Disposable, instant-activating cold packs (for cooling injuries and burns)
*Sharp scissors with rounded tips (for cutting tape, gauze or clothes)
*Hydrogen peroxide (to disinfect wounds)
*Cough suppressant
*Decongestant tablets

Remember to read medication labels, expiration dates, usage instructions and warnings each time before taking any medications. Throw away any medicines that are beyond their expiration date. They may have lost potency. And the spoon you use to stir coffee or eat soup might not measure a precise dose of liquid medicines so be sure to use the dosing cap or other device that came with your medication.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have a sudden illness or think you might have a medical- or health-related condition, do not use any medication without first consulting a health care professional.

Other items you might want for your home-away-from home “medicine cabinet” include the following:

*Thermometer in a container (consider buying a digital one with disposable covers)
*Sunscreen (15 SPF or higher is recommended)
*Calamine lotion (for itching from insect bites and stings, poison ivy)
*Antacid (for heartburn and indigestion—you know the reputation college food has!)
*Insect repellant
*Ace bandages
*Diarrhea remedy
*Throat lozenges
*Petroleum jelly or for those environmentalists like myself…Burt's Bees Res-Q Ointment!
*Cotton balls

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