Dr. Annie Answers: Stocking the Medicine Cabinet

*Disclaimer: This is not meant to take the place of your own health care provider’s evaluation and treatment or advice. Some links below are affiliate links for which we may receive a small amount of compensation, but the recommendations are my own independent of those*

The inevitable scenario: It’s 2 am, your kid has just woken up screaming, sweaty and with a terrible {rash, cough, stuffy nose, projectile vomit…insert your own.}. You call your on-call family doctor or pediatrician’s line and they ask you the kid’s temperature… Where is that thermometer again? Then they advise you to try XXX medicine… But, you don’t have that. And the drugstore is closed. Off to urgent care or the ER with you, do not pass GO, do not save $200.

I get the question all the time from patients, friends and family members with kids on the way, “What should we have in the medicine cabinet?”. Here’s a basic list to get you started by age. You can and should always check with your on-call doctor or nurse line if you’re at ALL unsure what to give. We really and truly never mind these kind of questions – especially if you’re prepared with the supplies at home!

When You’re Expecting

Birth to 2 months: 7 items, bonus points if you buy this stuff and give it to someone as a baby shower present!

1)Rectal thermometer: yes, it is easier to check a temperature with a forehead scanner or ear thermometer. None of them are medically accurate in little babies. Rectal is the gold standard. There’s a joke in that, but I’m not gonna go there…
**IMPORTANT: If rectal temperature is over 100.4, a baby under 2 months should be seen at a Pediatric Emergency Department if possible, or a regular ER if there isn’t a Pediatric one close enough to you.**
2) Nose Frida and nasal saline drops: Yep, super gross to consider sucking your baby’s boogers out with a tube. Especially if you’re not a parent yet. However, when those boogs are keeping your sweet angel from breathing well while they’re trying to eat, you’ll use ANYTHING to make it better. The blue bulb is far less effective and can suck too hard, causing swelling in those tiny nostrils that are already blocked up. Get one. Get over the grossness.


3) A humidifier: You can check Lucie’s List or Consumer Reports for top ratings, just have one ready to plug in!
4) Vitamin D drops: For breastfed or mostly breast-milk fed babies, supplemental vitamin D is recommended. I prefer Baby Ddrops because trying to get a milliliter of regular vitamin D drops into a tiny baby is impossibly and they will spit up most of it. These, you just put literally 1 drop on your finger and wipe on their tongue. Boom!


5) Aquaphor or equivalent heavy ointment: put on all rashes
6) Diaper cream: The most popular these days is Boudreaux’s Buttpaste which is a great barrier cream (aka blocks wetness from skin). Environmental Working Group lists Babo Botanicals Sensitive Baby Diaper Cream as one of the top non-toxic picks. For the worst rashes, he best ever is Resinol medicated diaper cream, you can only get it on Amazon.com to my knowledge. It will wipe out a gnarly diaper rash in 24-48 hours flat. It has Resorcinol which should be used sparingly on babies under age 2.
7) Digital scale: Nearly all baby medicines are given based on weight. By weighing yourself holding baby and subtracting your weight alone, you’ll be able to get a fairly accurate weight to help the on-call person from your doctor’s office guide you. If you aren’t ready to face your post-partum weight on the scale yet – switch that sucker over to kilograms 😉 If you want to weigh baby directly and have some cash to spare, the Hatch Baby Grow changing pad has built-in scale and is sleek and stylish to boot!

Hatch Changing Scale.jpg

2 months – 6 months: 4 more items once you’re past that 2 month mark

1) Liquid acetaminophen (generic for Tylenol): babies up to 6 months old can only have acetaminophen, NOT ibuprofen (generic for Advil and Motrin). Get dye-free.
2) Acetaminophen rectal suppositories: Because if your baby is throwing up or just a frequent spitter-upper, these are easier to get on board.
3) Prune juice: Many babies get constipated and therapy #1 is a little of this stuff. I keep a six-pack of the tiny Sunsweet cans in the pantry. If you want organic, there are options available through Walgreens.

4) Pediatric glycerin suppositories: For more difficult to treat baby constipation – definitely a “consult your doctor” moment, but again, easier to enact their recommendations if you already have this on hand.

Bigger babies
6 months-18 months (or whatever age your kid starts jumping off of things and getting into trouble): 8 more items to grab

Noemi at 7 months

1) Ibuprofen liquid (generic for Motrin/Advil)
2) Diphenhydramine liquid (generic for Benadryl): If your kid gets an allergy once they start eating foods or getting into stuff, you may need to give them this ASAP depending on the situation. Call your doctor’s office on-call line immediately for recommendations and weight-based dosing. IF THEY HAVE ANY FACE/MOUTH/TONGUE SWELLING OR TROUBLE BREATHING CALL 911!!! This should be obvious, but in an emergency I don’t want people saying “well Dr. Annie said Benadryl….”.
3) Fever Stickers: Children’s Fever Monitor Strips. As babies get bigger, it’s harder to pin them down and take a temperature. These things are a parenting miracle, sticking on for 12-24 hours and giving a real-time temperature update. Plus, kids love stickers and generally don’t like having a thermometer stuck in their mouth, armpit or bum-hole. I’ve checked them against our top-rated digital thermometer and they’re right on.


4) Pedialyte or equivalent pediatric rehydration: I keep the powder on hand because it’s easier to hide from my daughters and they love it (pro-tip, if your kids only ever have water to drink, they think this is “soda” and a special treat). Kids inevitably start vomiting in the middle of the night or on a holiday weekend and goodness knows you don’t want to haul a puking kid around in the car looking for a store with this in stock! Yes, you can make at-home rehydration solution with apple juice, salt and sugar, but again – do you really want to be googling the ratios and trying to mix that up when you’re dealing with a puking kid? Not me.
5) Ice packs: frozen peas or ice in a bag works in a pinch, but having a few Boo-boo buddies ready to go in the freezer will come in handy on a nearly daily basis once your kid is fully mobile.
6) Bottle of eye saline: I’ll never forget the moment of panic when my 2.5 year old came screaming out of the bathroom holding her eye having gotten her hands on a tube of super-glue. You can lock things up, watch your kids like a hawk and they will still get into all sorts of bad stuff. Grabbing a bottle of saline (contact solution works in a pinch) and squirting the sh!* out of their eye can save their vision and is way easier than trying to hold their head under a faucet.

7)Nasal saline aerosol: Much easier for rinsing bigger-badder-boogers out of those bigger baby noses. I like whichever brand currently has a cartoon on it I can distract my kid with before I blast their snot out.
8)Dark-colored, preferably local honey: FOR OLDER THAN 12 MONTHS ONLY. Once kids are over 1 year, this is the clinically proven best cough syrup. Local honey has the added benefit of potentially decreasing allergies to local pollens. Zarbee’s syrup is an alternative and comes in different flavors if your kiddo hates honey taste.

For the “big kids”
18 months up: just 2 more
1) Acetaminophen and Motrin Tablets: When your kid is at least 22 pounds, you can switch to acetaminophen and ibuprofen chewable tablets. Call your on-call doctor and they can give you the up-to-date dosing for your child’s weight. (see digital scale above!)
2) Miralax: Stage #2 for bigger kids’ constipation issues is Miralax or generic equivalent.

Grand total: 21 items to have you stocked for the most common minor emergencies around the house. Every single one of them can be purchased online, hooray for the modern world! There are, of course, a whole pharmacy-worth of other products you may need in the course of raising your family from gas-drops to hydrocortisone ointment to probiotics. My goal here was to get in one list the universal basics I keep around at all times for the moments you need them quickly. Again, the MOST IMPORTANT thing to do is ask for help when your baby or child isn’t feeling well. This list is not intended to be personalized medical advice. Happy parenting!! May the seasonal viral strains be ever in your favor.


Photo credit: Fiona Margo Photography fionamargophotography.com

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Real As A M*ther

Four girls became best friends in high school and have stayed together through a whole lot of life. We are now a doctor, a lawyer, a financial advisor and a badass doula slash massage therapist and homesteader and want to share what we've learned as wives, moms, women and in our careers with the world... and entertain you along the way!

2 thoughts on “Dr. Annie Answers: Stocking the Medicine Cabinet

  1. As a pediatric nurse practitioner, I couldn’t agree more with this list and you gave such great tips to make it understandable! Such a fun read!


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