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BLOG: “What Does the Doctor Keep in Her Medicine Cabinet?” Part 1

Full disclosure: My family calls me “MacGyver” because I try to be prepared for all emergencies. I was very serious about my medicine cabinet even before I became a doctor.Here’s what I keep on hand. For those who like natural remedies, I’ve included some effective ones, in green, researched on “The Natural Standard”. These recommendations are only for those 18 and older! Always call the doctor when you have severe symptoms or symptoms associated with fever.

 Pain & Fever Reduction:

The 4 most common types of pain are: low back pain; headache; neck pain and face pain.

1) Acetaminophen (e.g. brand Tylenol®):

Notes: Good for all-purpose pain relief. Acetaminophen is added to many over the counter cold preparations and many prescription meds. Acetaminophen overdose is extremely dangerous, so make sure you don’t take more than 3,000 mgs a day. 

2) Ibuprofen or naproxen (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications):

Notes: Especially good for migraines, musculoskeletal pain.

Do not take if you have kidney problems. Can cause GI upset.

3) Willow Bark (active ingredient salicin, similar to aspirin):

Notes: Willow bark has been used for pain at daily doses of 1 to 3 g of bark, corresponding to salicin 60 to 120 mg.

For GI Upset:

1) Pink Bismuth tablets:

Notes: Helpful for a range of GI complaints, including diarrhea and other GI upsets.

2) Peppermint Oil*:

Notes:  Peppermint oil (0.2-0.4 mL) three times daily in liquid.

For Nausea/Seasickness:

1) Meclizine (e.g., brand Bonine®):

2) Ginger*:  Notes:  The European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy suggest a dose of 1-4g daily of powder or tablets, or try Gin-Gins® or ginger tea.

3 ) ReliefBand®:  Notes:  Looks like a wristwatch that presses a specific spot on the inside of the wrist. It stimulates the nerves in the wrist with gentle electrical signals, which are believed to interfere with nausea-inducing messages between the brain and the stomach.


1) Non-sedating antihistamine: Loratadine (Claritin®), cetirizine (Zyrtec®): Notes: This helps the runny nose, cough, sneezing.

2) Allergy Eye Drops (topical antihistamine/mast-cell stabilizer/decongestant): Naphcon-A®, Alamast®):

3) Nasal Irrigations (e.g., NeilMed® sinus rinse): Notes: Use only filtered water.

Upper Respiratory Infections:

I keep SINGLE-INGREDIENT preparations only and just use what I need for the symptoms I have.

Expectorant (loosens phlegm so you can cough it up): Guaifenisin (e.g., Mucinex® or plain Robitussin®)

Decongestant: Pseudephedrine; phenylephrine. (If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, etc., instead use the Coricidin HBP® line.

Decongestant nasal spray: oxymetolazone (e.g. Afrin®) Notes: Do not use more than 3 days in a row.

BONUS: You can use decongestant sprays to stop minor bleeding. Saturate gauze square and apply. Don’t use on tips of fingers or nose.

Anti-cough(anti-tussive): Dextromethorphan (I use Delsym®)


 Poison Ivy/Plant dermatitis:

         Plant Oil Blocker: (e.g., Ivy Block®, Ivy Dry®)

                  Note: Coat skin with product before exposure to plant oils        

        Plant Oil Wash: (e.g., Tecnu®, Zanfel®):

        Note: Put gardening clothes straight into the washer. Wash with product. Can also use to reduce the symptoms from poison ivy outbreaks.

Topical Hydrocortisone Ointment 1%:  Note: Ointment more potent than other forms.Can also be used for eczema.

Wound Care:

Topical antibiotic: Neosporin® or Bacitracin® or generic version.

Topical protectant: Aquaphor® (similar to petroleum jelly but more purified)

Unpetroleum Jelly®: My favorite. Great for dry skin too.

 Arnica gel: Great for bruises and contusions.

 Aloe gel: For burns and sunburns. Keep it in the fridge.


NEXT BLOG IS PART 2: Which medical supplies to keep on hand, and more things from your *KITCHEN to have on hand for burns, colds, etc.

Take Care,

Dr. Emily Nolfo

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