Home may be where the heart is, but it's also a prime site for medical care. From burns and scrapes to headaches and sniffles, many health problems are frequently treated at home.

That's why you need medical supplies to handle emergencies when they occur. An estimated 6.8 million Americans were injured at home in 1998 seriously enough to sideline them for at least a day, according to the National Safety Council.

Stairs are among the most dangerous places in the home, accounting for more than 914,000 emergency room visits in 1997, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Slippery floors and other flooring hazards were responsible for 841,000 injuries, while knives accounted for 435,000 visits to emergency rooms.

Many less serious injuries, such as a minor cut or a twisted ankle, can be managed at home. To keep a well-stocked medicine cabinet, the American Red Cross, the American College of Emergency Physicians and the Mayo Clinic recommend keeping on hand the items in the accompanying list.

Many people also have prescription drugs in their medicine cabinets to handle specific needs, such as allergies or asthma. Don't forget to check expiration dates on over-the-counter and prescription items. Throw out any unused prescription drugs once you no longer need them.

And be sure to keep all medicines out of the reach of children.


Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes

2-inch sterile gauze pads (4-6)

4-inch sterile gauze pads (4-6)

1 triangular bandage (for arm slings and splints)

Several roller bandages (to help hold dressings in place)

1 elastic bandage (for compression on sprains and strains)

Hypoallergenic adhesive tape to hold bandages in place

Moleskin bandage for blisters


Aspirin and nonaspirin pain relievers (which also help treat fever and swelling)

Nonaspirin pain relievers for children under age 16

Cough medicine


Antihistamine (for allergy relief)

Antacid (for stomach upset)

Syrup of ipecac (to induce vomiting if advised by the Poison Control Center, 202-625-3333)

Activated charcoal (also to use when advised by the Poison Control Center)


Moistened towelettes

Sterile cotton balls

Cotton swabs

Antiseptic wipes, such as alcohol swabs

Antiseptic solution, such as hydrogen peroxide or Betadine


Sterile eye wash

Eye wash cup

Bulb irrigating syringe for the nose

Eye dropper

Small flashlight to check ears, nose, throat and eyes


Petroleum jelly or other lubricant (for a variety of purposes, including covering scrapes and burns)

Calamine or antihistamine lotion (to stop rashes and itching)

Antiseptic cream, ointment or spray (to help stop infection)

Hydrocortisone cream or ointment (to treat skin irritation and itching)



Tweezers (to remove splinters, ticks, etc.)

Blunt-tipped scissors for cutting bandages close to the skin

Prepackaged chemical cold pack, which can be twisted, bent or squeezed to become cold quickly

Heating pad or prepackaged chemical hot pack, which can be twisted, bent or squeezed to become hot quickly

Disposable latex gloves, which help prevent spread of disease


Spoon, cup or oral syringe for administering medicines

Safety pins to hold bandages in place or help improvise slings

First aid manual