There’s nothing worse than an emergency pharmacy run with a sick kid. Fortunately, there’s a special place in your bathroom that exists solely to spare you that whole ordeal. We spoke to Dr. Mona Amin to find out all the things a board-certified pediatrician (and mother) has in her medicine cabinet at home. Read on and stock up.
18 Things a Pediatrician Always Has in Her Medicine Cabinet
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1. Nasal Saline
Available as a spray or rinse, this product is essentially just salt water that you put up your (or someone else’s) nose to thin and loosen mucus.
Why it’s important: Nasal saline makes it much easier to effectively use a bulb suctioner your baby’s nose is all gunked up with congestion.
2. Bulb Syringe
Young kids who aren’t able to blow their nose need you to suck the snot out for them, and a bulb syringe is the tool for the job. As the name suggests, this item boasts a bulb-like shape on one end, along with a pointed tip that’s intended to be inserted into the nose. Give the bulb a squeeze and watch (with great satisfaction) as the mucus is vacuumed from your kid’s nasal passages.
Why it’s important: Bulb syringes remove mucus from the nose so congested babies can breathe more comfortably.
3. Digital Thermometer
Fevers happen—and when they do, they should be monitored. The doctor tells us that rectal thermometers are the way to go for kids under the age of one, but under the tongue or in the ear is a-OK for older kids.
Why it’s important: An accurate measurement of body temperature can help parents detect and monitor illness in kids of all ages.
A humidifier isn’t exactly a must-have (and it might not fit in your medicine cabinet, either). Still, this one makes Dr. Amin’s list because it can make kids more comfortable—particularly when dry skin or respiratory symptoms are a problem.
Why it’s important: Humidifiers add moisture to the air, which prevents dryness and irritation of the skin, and helps congested kids clear their lungs and sinuses more easily.
5. Diaper Rash Cream
This one is a no-brainer if you’ve got a baby or toddler that’s still in diapers. Having an few options on hand can be smart since your kid’s tush might need different solutions for different problems. (Hint: Urine and excrement can really do a number on the delicate skin of your baby’s tush.)
Why it’s important: Diaper rash creams create a barrier that protects the skin and prevents raw and painful rashes from developing down below.
6. Gas Drops
Your baby swallows a lot of air, and their underdeveloped digestive system needs a little help dealing with it. Enter, gas drops. The active ingredient here is simethicone, a medicine that breaks down big air bubbles into something more manageable, so your baby can pass gas without pain.
Why it’s important: Treats the painful symptoms of trapped gas, so you have a happier baby on your hands.
7. Infant’s Acetaminophen
Fevers are a common symptom of viral infections and routine vaccinations alike; they’re also quite unpleasant. Acetaminophen is a safe and doctor-recommended fever reducer—provided you pick the children’s formula—that will help an under-the-weather wee one feel more comfortable.
Why it’s important: Children’s acetaminophen is an OTC fever reducer that’s deemed safe for use in babies over two months of age.
Shop similar items: Infants’ Tylenol Liquid Medicine Acetaminophen ($9)
8. Hydrocortisone 1% Cream
This is a low-dose topical steroid cream that relieves minor skin irritation and itching caused by eczema and bug bites, among other things—just be sure to get the green light from your child’s pediatrician before use.
Why it’s important: Treats common and mild forms of skin irritation and, with doctor approval, is safe for use in children over two months of age.
Shop similar items: Aveeno Maximum Strength 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream, 2-pack ($10); Thera Care Maximum Strength Hydrocortisone Cream ($6)
9. Chest Rub
Chest rubs are ointments designed to alleviate (i.e., suppress) coughing. However, it’s important to consider your child’s age before picking a chest rub for your medicine cabinet. Dr. Amin tells us that Vicks VapoRub—the mentholated chest jelly you remember from childhood—is only safe for use in children over 2 years of age, but there are other products available for younger ones.
Why it’s important: An age-appropriate chest rub will suppress coughing in a sick kid, so they can get the rest they need to recover.
10. Children’s Ibuprofen
We already covered acetaminophen, the fever-reducer recommended for younger babies. Ibuprofen is a medicine that boasts the same fever-reducing and pain-relieving effect as acetaminophen, while also reducing inflammation in the body. As such, it’s appropriate for treating a wider range of ailments—from viral infections to sprained ankles—but is only recommended for use in children six months of age or older.
Why it’s important: A multi-use pain reliever and fever reducer that treats symptoms associated with inflammation.
11. Pedialyte Packets (instead Of The Bulky Bottle)
This kid-friendly, hydrating drink is good to have on hand when your little one catches (yet another) bug, but there’s no need to take up precious refrigerator real estate with a big bottle of the stuff. Instead, stash some powder packs in your medicine cabinet and mix up a fresh batch whenever your babe has been bit by the flu, the dreaded norovirus, or any other illness that can lead to dehydration—a common complication that can easily be avoided with an electrolyte-packed and oh-so sweet cup of Pedialyte.
Why it’s important: A well-balanced combination of sugar and electrolytes that prevents dehydration in sick kids (without offending their picky palates).
Shop similar items: Pedialyte Electrolyte Powder Variety Pack ($8)
12. Cold Pack
Your rambunctious (and clumsy) toddler went and bumped his head on the corner of the dining table…again. Time to kiss the boo-boo and bust out an ice pack. Psst: The disposable instant variety doesn't even need to be kept in the freezer.
Why it’s important: Cold packs reduce inflammation and pain for all manner of bonks and bruises.
Shop similar items: Medi 55 Instant Cold Packs ($21)
Are you even a kid if you don’t have scrapes on all four limbs? We think not, and the doctor agrees. Pro tip: Buy bandaids in bulk so that you’re never SOL in a time of need—you know, ‘cause your toddler used them all for pretend play.
Why it’s important: This adhesive promotes the healing process by protecting wounds from harmful bacteria and further abrasion.
14. Antibiotic Ointment
Don’t just stick a Band-Aid on it…at least not before you’ve thoroughly cleansed and slathered the scrape with antibiotic ointment. This medicine cabinet essential also speeds up healing—namely by keeping wounds moist and, as the name suggests, preventing bacterial infection.
Why it’s important: Prevents bacterial infection and promotes healing of minor burns and abrasions.
Shop similar items: Neosporin Maximum Strength Dual Action Pain Relief Antibiotic Ointment ($8); Bacitraycin Plus Maximum Strength Ointment, 2-pack ($14)
News to no one: It’s critical to protect the skin from harmful UV rays and the cancers they can cause. Sunscreen is safe for use in babies over six months of age—and considering how much time your kiddo spends frolicking outside, you should never find yourself without a tube of the stuff.
Why it’s important: Sunscreen is approved for use in children over six months to protect against potentially life-threatening sun damage down the line.
Shop similar items: Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen Lotion, 3-pack ($33); Banana Boat Sport Sting-free Sunscreen Spray, 2-pack ($12)
16. Insect Repellant
In addition to the risk of incessant whining over an itchy or painful bug bite, some insects (mosquitoes and ticks, for example) carry harmful pathogens. Avoid the minor annoyance and the major health risk by having bug repellant on the ready whenever you’re spending time outdoors with your child.
Why it’s important: Prevents skin irritation, discomfort and potential disease transmission from insect bites.
You can keep it in your pantry next to your favorite sleepy time tea if you prefer, but honey, for children over 2 years old, still counts as a medicine cabinet staple because it’s a safe, effective and very yummy way to alleviate symptoms of sore throat and cough in children over the age of two. (Note: Infant botulism is a real and scary risk of giving honey to children under age 2.)
Why it’s important: A nutritious and all-natural remedy for cough and cold symptoms in kids over age two.
What item can tackle both a unibrow (yours) and a splinter in your toddler’s palm? Tweezers. Get yourself a good sharp pair to keep in the medicine cabinet at all times.
Why it’s important: A tool for easily and painlessly removing splinters from a child’s skin.