Straight, No Chaser: What Should Be in Your Medicine Cabinet

medicine cabinet sick-care-vs-health-care

You’ve all done it. I’ve caught a few of you doing it. Why do you rummage through someone’s else’s medicine cabinet? Are newer homes even built with medicine cabinets anymore? Oh well… Today, Straight, No Chaser tackles a simple but important question in an ongoing effort to better empower you. For starters, here’s hoping your cabinet doesn’t resemble any of these pictured, but there is a role for medicines in your medicine cabinet.
1. What should be in your medicine cabinet? Here’s my top five and why.

  • Aspirin (324 mg).


On the day you’re having a heart attack, you’ll want this available to pop in your mouth on the way to the hospital. Of all the intervention done in treating heart attacks, none is better than simply taking an aspirin. It offers a 23% reduction in mortality (death rates) due to a heart attack all by itself.

  • Activated charcoal.

activated charcoal

This one may surprise you. Talk to your physician or pharmacist about this. If someone in your family ever overdoses on a medicine, odds are this is the first medication you’d be given in the emergency room. The sooner it’s onboard, the sooner it can begin detoxifying whatever you took. That said, there are some medications and circumstances when you shouldn’t take it, so get familiar with it by talking with your physician.

  • Antiseptics such as triple antibiotic ointment for cuts, scratches and minor burns.

triple abx

It should be embarrassing for you to spend $1000 going to an emergency room when you could have addressed the problem at home. I guess I should include bandages here as well.

  • A variety pack for colds, including antihistamines (like diphenhydramine, aka benadryl) and cough preparations.


As a general rule, give yourself 3-5 days of using OTC preparations for a cold to see if it works or goes away. If not, then it’s certainly appropriate to get additional medical care. I guess I can lump a thermometer in this bullet point.

  • The fifth item would be this number: 800-222-1222, which is number to the national poison control center.


They will address your concerns, route you to your local poison center, advise you on the appropriate use of activated charcoal and help coordinate your care when you go to your emergency department.
Be smart about the items in your home in general and in your medicine cabinet in particular. We’ll continue the theme with the next Straight, No Chaser.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
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