As a parent, ensuring the health and well-being of your family is undoubtedly a top priority. One essential tool every household should have is a first aid kit, but equally important is a well-stocked medicine cabinet. Let’s explore the key items to keep on hand and how to use them responsibly…

1. Take a Thoughtful Approach

Before we delve into the items you should have in your medicine cabinet, it’s essential to approach medication responsibly. Retired nurse, Nadia de Bruyn, emphasises the importance of not jumping to administer medication at the first sign of illness. Sometimes, giving medication can mask more serious symptoms or complications. Instead, observe your children closely, especially the younger ones and infants, to understand the symptoms they’re experiencing. In some cases, it might be wiser to refrain from administering anything and seek professional medical advice.

2. Basic Medications for Common Symptoms

While your medicine cabinet needn’t resemble a pharmacy, having a few essential items can make a significant difference in managing common symptoms. Sister De Bryun suggests the following:

Pain and Fever Syrup: Keeping a pain and fever reducer, like Panado, can help manage discomfort and fevers in both children and adults.

Electrolyte Solution: This is crucial to have on hand, especially when someone in the family has a runny tummy (diarrhoea) or is experiencing dehydration. An electrolyte solution can help restore essential minerals lost due to these conditions.

Nausea and Vomiting Relief: Having something to manage nausea and vomiting can be a lifesaver when someone falls ill with these symptoms.

Skin Ailments: Keep calamine lotion and a topical ointment for itchiness and insect bites to address common skin irritations.

Antihistamines: For allergies, it’s wise to have antihistamines on hand, especially during allergy seasons or in case of unexpected reactions.

Pectin: This natural substance aids in binding a runny tummy and can be a useful addition to your medicine cabinet.

Nasal Decongestants: These can provide relief from nasal congestion caused by colds or allergies.

3. Proper Storage is Key

Where you store your medication matters just as much as what you store. Avoid keeping medications in the bathroom or kitchen, as these environments are prone to moisture and heat, which can reduce potency or, in rare cases, even render medication toxic. Instead, opt for a more stable environment like a linen or bedroom closet.

4. Seek Professional Advice

Pharmacies offer a wide range of medications for various purposes. Sister De Bruyn suggests consulting family pharmacists to identify suitable “schedule zero, one, and two” medicines appropriate for your children’s ages and any known allergies. Many over-the-counter medications do not require a prescription, but professional guidance can ensure you make informed decisions.


Having a well-stocked medicine cabinet is an important aspect of responsible parenting. By taking a thoughtful approach to medication, keeping essential items on hand, storing them correctly, and seeking professional advice when needed, you can better manage common ailments within your family. Remember, your medicine cabinet should serve as a resource for first aid and symptom management, but it’s no substitute for professional medical care when necessary. Stay informed, stay prepared, and prioritise the health of your loved ones.