Keeping your home’s medicine cabinet stocked can be more of a matter of quality than quantity. While it’s a good idea to have a variety of different things on hand, you don’t need to bring the whole drugstore home with you to take proper care of yourself and your family. These five items form a good foundation for an effective and versatile medicine cabinet. You can fill them in with other items that relate more closely to the problems that tend to ail you.

Antibacterial Ointment and Bandages

While putting a plain adhesive bandage on a cut is better than nothing, your box of bandages could use some support in the form of an antibacterial ointment. Studies have shown that applying these ointments to a clean wound can actually speed up healing and decrease the chance of infection when you sustain a wound. If it’s not a serious injury, you can treat the problem yourself by cleaning the wound properly and then applying an antibiotic ointment and covering with an adhesive bandage.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relief

Prescription pain relievers should only be used in specific contexts with the express permission of a doctor. For everyday aches and pains, an over-the-counter pain reliever should be more than enough to have you feeling better. Having this medication on hand can help you with everything from stress headaches to sore muscles after a particularly intense workout. Most over-the-counter pain relief options also include fever reducing elements as well, so it’s good to have them in case you need them.


Having a thermometer on hand can let you know how severe your illness actually is. It can also be important if you’re feeling truly ill but aren’t sure whether you need to seek emergency medical help. As a general rule of thumb, adults should go to the emergency room when they experience fever higher than 103 degrees Fahrenheit.

Acetaminophen-Free Sleep Aid

It’s tempting to chug down nighttime cold and flu medication on nights when you’re otherwise feeling good but can’t get to sleep. However, it’s not a good idea to exceed recommended doses of acetaminophen, so even if you’ve always got some nighttime cold medicine on hand, you should leave it on the shelf unless you actually need it. Giving yourself an alternative sleep aid reduces the temptation to take medicines you don’t actually need and allows you to focus on the actual problem at hand: sleep.

Cold and Flu Medicine

Both nighttime and daytime cold and flu meds are a valuable asset for a medicine cabinet. Keeping these medications on hand as staples can give you the jump you need to get ahead of sneaky cold and flu symptoms and start feeling better sooner. If you want to get ultra efficient, you can just keep daytime cold meds on hand and use your over-the-counter sleep aid at night to help you drift off in spite of your sniffles. Having nighttime medication on hand too can’t hurt, of course. If most of your symptoms tend to bother you at night, that may be the more efficient choice for your medicine cabinet.