Is your medicine cabinet back-to-school ready?

Kids will bring home more than homework now that they’re back in school. Brace yourself for disease-causing germs, cuts, bites, scrapes and other maladies by keeping your medicine cabinet well organized, up-to-date and fully stocked.

Start by doing the following:

· Choose a cool, dry storage place. Bathroom cabinets are okay as long as they don’t get warm and steamy during baths and showers. Many products degrade when exposed to humidity and warm temperatures.

· Check expiration dates. Toss any expired products. Many pharmacies offer safe medication disposal.

· Safely secure all medications and supplements if there are young children in the house. Lock these products in a high cabinet.

· Carefully review all labels. Now is a good time to remind yourself of any precautions. Many over-the-counter (OTC) drugs have warnings regarding their use in those who have serious medical conditions such as heart, kidney or liver disease.

Understand dosing instructions. Some products for children are dosed by weight or age. Others are not safe or recommended for children.


Here’s what you might want to include, and avoid, in your medicine cabinet makeover:

· For bruises and muscle strains: Arnica, available in tablets or gel, is a homeopathic remedy that can be used for treating minor bruises and muscle strains. It can reduce pain and swelling and speed healing. Keep a flexible cold pack handy to manage pain and swelling from an acute minor injury such as a strain or sprain. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help treat aches and pains.

· For allergies: Antihistamines can cause significant drowsiness along with dry eyes and mouth. Instead, look for a homeopathic formula that is for kids ages two and older. For congestion caused by allergies, use a saline nasal sprays. They are safer than OTC decongestants, which carry the risk of serious side effects such as racing heart, increased blood pressure, insomnia and thinning of the delicate nasal lining.

· For diarrhea/constipation: Laxatives and anti-diarrheal medications carry the risk of various side effects and should only be used when advised by your doctor. Instead, soluble fiber supplements that contain Sunfiber are helpful for managing both constipation and diarrhea. This prebiotic mixes well with water, and is taste-free and odor-free. It might also help with kids’ chronic tummy aches.

· For bug bites: Hydrocortisone creams help with the itching, swelling and redness. But surprisingly they can cause kids’ skin to itch, burn, dry out and change color. A natural alternative is an ointment that contains tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is antiseptic, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. It helps take the sting and itch out of bug bites, and it’s good for minor cuts and irritations.

· For insomnia: For sleeplessness due to stress or anxiety try a supplement that contains Suntheanine, a clinically studied, non-addictive form of the amino acid L-theanine. It helps promote relaxation and improve sleep quality without causing next-day drowsiness. For sleep issues triggered by shift work or travel, try melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone naturally secreted by the body that regulates our sleep/wake cycles. Melatonin levels naturally decline as we age.

· For colds: Many OTC cold products are not recommended for children less than four years old because studies have found that they really don’t help the symptoms and they carry the risk of significant side effects. Homeopathic options are both safer and still relieve symptoms of common cold such as sneezing, runny nose, head and chest congestion. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used to help treat fever and aches/pains. Zinc lozenges can help a sore throat and speed recovery from a cold.

· For coughs: Buckwheat honey is great for managing a sore throat. It contains antioxidants and nutrients that help speed healing. It also lubricates and soothes the throat. Buckwheat honey can be given to children age one year and over, and is available in most health food stores. Lozenges with honey, eucalyptus and Echinacea can also help.

· For eczema/skin rash: Oatmeal baths can help relieve dry, itchy skin. Add 2 cups of ground colloidal oatmeal (not breakfast oatmeal) to a tub of warm water (hot water can further dry out and irritate skin). Then apply a moisturizer with soothing and hydrating ingredients such as vitamin E, aloe and lavender. Supplements that contain gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), such as evening primrose or borage oil, may help reduce itching and inflammation.

· For nausea, upset stomach: Studies show that the very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols found in ginger can help relieve motion sickness, dizziness, nausea and gas, and soothe the intestinal tract. You can find supplemental ginger in capsules and chewables in health food stores.

With these products readily available, you may be able to resolve many of your child’s typical health issues quickly and easily.