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College Medicine Cabinet Checklist

Family & Caregiving

Chances are good that your college student won't have his or her own private bathroom with a medicine cabinet while away at college. Nevertheless, they'll need to have any medications they take and some first-aid essentials readily at hand. Here's what to do:

Find a clean, sturdy, lightweight plastic container that opens easily to serve as a "home-away-from-home" medicine cabinet. (Bathroom medicine cabinets aren't the best places to store medicines anyway since the damp humid air in them may cause ingredients in pills or capsules to change.) Keep medications in this container, along with first-aid supplies (see list below). Also include emergency phone numbers for a local health care provider or the student health center, as well as the regional Poison Control Center. Stash this "home-away-from-home" medicine cabinet in a dry, dark place. Lock it or store it in a locked cabinet if little kids are around.

The American College of Emergency Physicians suggests these items for a first-aid kit:

  • Pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin. Check with your family health care professional or pharmacist to see which one they would recommend. Aspirin should not be used to relieve flu symptoms or be taken by anyone under 18. And, as is the case with most other medicines, pain medications—both prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter)—should have their labels checked for any drug interaction warnings.
  • Antihistamine for allergic reactions (speak with your health care professional about the best way you to treat an allergy)
  • Adhesive bandages (assorted sizes) for minor cuts and scrapes
  • Gauze in rolls or pads and adhesive tapes (to dress larger cuts and scrapes)
  • Triangular bandage (to wrap injuries or make an arm sling)
  • Elastic wrap (for wrapping wrist, ankle, knee and elbow injuries)
  • Bandage closures
  • Safety pins
  • Antiseptic wipes (to disinfect wounds or clean hands, tweezers or thermometer)
  • Antibiotic ointment (to prevent burns, scrapes and cuts from becoming infected)
  • Disposable, instant-activating cold packs (for cooling injuries and burns)
  • Sharp scissors with rounded tips (for cutting tape, gauze or clothes)
  • Tweezers
  • Hydrogen peroxide (to disinfect wounds)
  • Cough suppressant
  • Decongestant tablets

Other items you might want to include in their home-away-from-home medicine cabinet are:

  • Thermometer in a container (consider buying a digital one with disposable covers)
  • Sunscreen (15 SPF or higher is recommended)
  • Calamine lotion (for itching from insect bites and stings, poison ivy)
  • Antacid (for heartburn and indigestion—you know the reputation college food has!)
  • Insect repellant
  • Ace bandages
  • Diarrhea remedy
  • Throat lozenges
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Cotton balls

Remind your teen to read medication labels, expiration dates, usage instructions and warnings each time he or she is taking any medications. And to throw away any medicines that are beyond their expiration dates. They may have lost potency. Encourage them to use the dosing cap or other device that came with the medication because the spoon they use to stir coffee or eat soup might not measure a precise dose of liquid medicines.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If your teen has a sudden illness or a medical- or health-related condition, do not have them use any medication without first consulting a health care professional.

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