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10 Things You Should Have In Your Medicine Cabinet

Everybody should have a few common, key items in their medicine cabinet. These few items should help in a pinch, and save you from making trips to the store in the middle of the night. Here are the must haves to any medicine cabinet:

  1. Tylenol (generic is acetaminophen). You can buy the children’s or infant formula; they are the same concentration. The only difference is whether it comes with a cup (children’s) or syringe (infant) to dose. For the same cost, you get more out of the children’s version. Use Tylenol for fever and/or pain. There is no anti-inflammatory effect, but it is easier on your child’s gut. Use it rather than Motrin if your child has stomach issues related to the problem or is borderline dehydrated.
  2. Motrin (generic is Ibuprofen). Children and Infant versions come in different concentrations, so be very careful about dosing. Use Motrin for fever, pain, and an anti-inflammatory. Motrin is metabolized through the kidneys, so only use if your child is well-hydrated. It can also be upsetting to a stomach. Use Motrin rather than Tylenol if the problem has associated swelling (twisted ankle, sore throat, ear pain, etc.).
  3. Benadryl (generic is diphenhydramine). Use if your child is having an allergic reaction (whether to something they ate, touched, or whatever). An allergic reaction can progress quickly. You won’t want to have to wait while you run to the store.
  4. Bandages (like Band-aids). Get a handful of different types and sizes (including an assorted box and some finger- tip/knuckle bandages). If your kids move, they will need a bandage at some point.
  5. Sterile Gauze. Buy a box of 2” x 2” and 4” x 4.” The gauze can be used to help clean out cuts and scrapes, stop bleeding, and dress wounds.
  6. Wound cleaning agent (like Hydrogen Peroxide, ProvodineIsopropyl alcohol, or Betadine). Most initial cuts or scrapes should be cleaned out and properly dressed. Your kid won’t appreciate you pouring hydrogen peroxide over his newly scraped knee (it’ll sting), but getting out the dirt and preventing infection is key. Only clean out the wounds with these agents the first time.
  7. Antibiotic Ointment (like Neosporin). Nearly all cuts and scrapes should have an antibiotic ointment put on them after they are cleaned out to prevent infection. Use the ointment daily with dressing changes.
  8. Wrap (like Coban). Coban is a stretchy, self-adherent wrap that comes in a roll. Once you’ve used it, you’ll never go back to tape. It’s lovely because it sticks to itself and doesn’t hurt when you take it off (like tape does).
  9. Thermometer. If you have children under a year, you need a simple digital thermometer that can be used rectally. If your children are older, you can go with another method (like a tympanic-ear or temporal-forehead thermometer).
  10. Unique-to-you-meds. These are the medications that are specific to your child’s medical conditions. For example, if your child has a peanut allergy, an EpiPen should be part of your medicine kit.

For the most part, all other medications can be purchased on an as needed basis. Buying one of every cough and cold medicine, “just in case” is a waste of money. First, medications expire. Second, what if you bought the one for cough and runny nose, but your child only has a runny nose? Chances are the bug will start with a fever (in the middle of the night) and you’ll be ready for that. You can then go to the store the next day and get whatever other meds you may need. These few simple things will help make sure you are prepared and streamline your efforts.

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How To Take A Temperature

Taking your child’s temperature is a straightforward process that, when done correctly, provides important information about your child’s health.

A normal temperature for a child is 98° to 99° F (37° C). A fever is a temperature greater than 100.4° F or 38° C.

Ways to take a temperature

There are multiple methods for taking a temperature:

  • Rectal (in a child’s bottom)
  • Oral (in a child’s mouth)
  • Axillary (under a child’s arm)
  • Ear
  • Temporal artery

Best way to take a temperature

The most accurate and consistently recommended method for taking a temperature is rectally. Do not fear the rectal temperature. It is the ONLY acceptable method for taking a temperature in an infant.

How to take a temperature

To take a rectal temperature, you need a digital thermometer (it will show numbers in a little window). You also need some lubricant (e.g., KY jelly, Surgilube, petroleum jelly, etc.). Here are the steps involved:

  1. Turn on the thermometer.
  2. Put some of the lubricant on the small end of the thermometer (the end with the silver tip).
  3. Lay your child across your lap or on something firm (e.g., a table). You can lay your child face up or down. If your child is face down, place one hand on your child’s back. If your child is face up, use your hand to hold your child’s legs up against his or her chest.
  4. Gently insert the lubricated tip of the thermometer half (½) an inch, just beyond the silver tip, into the child’s rectum. Use the same hand that inserted the thermometer to hold it in place and cup your hand over your child’s bottom to ensure the thermometer doesn’t get dislodged.
  5. After a minute, when it signals (e.g., beeps or lights up), read the number.

To take an oral temperature, you will also use a digital thermometer. Before taking the temperature, make sure that your child hasn’t had a hot or cold drink within the last 15 minutes – this can alter the reading.

  1. First turn on the thermometer.
  2. Put the small end of the thermometer (the end with the silver tip) under your child’s tongue as far back as it will go.
  3. Next, have your child close his or her mouth around the thermometer to hold it in place.
  4. After a minute, when it signals (e.g., beeps or lights up) read the number. (Again, keep in mind that a rectal temperature is more accurate than an oral temperature.)

There is some controversy over the accuracy of the axillary (armpit) temperature. Whether or not it is capable of measuring the core body temperature or just the skin temperature is the debate. For this reason, I am not going to review the methodology. By the way, did I mention that rectally is really the way you should be measuring your child’s temperature? J

How to read a temperature

A temperature is read like this: 100.4° is said “One- hundred-point-four degrees” and 104° is said “One-hundred-and-four degrees. Read it carefully. Parents relay these temperatures incorrectly all the time, and there is obviously a big difference between the two.