We all want our children to be healthy and safe, but there are bound to be times when they become ill or injured. Having supplies gathered ahead of time will help you handle these situations at a moment's notice. You can use your bathroom medicine cabinet as a storage spot (for all supplies except medications—see note below under medications) or put together a separate first aid kit in a container that is roomy, durable, easy to carry, and simple to open.
Whichever container you select, make sure it is kept out of reach for children but easily accessible for adults. You'll want to label supplies and medications clearly so that anyone can recognize the items quickly. Check expiration dates regularly and get rid of items that are expired. Replace used supplies promptly and discard products used just for infants as your children get older.
Use this list to assemble or review the necessary supplies in your home and to get rid of unsuitable or unsafe ones.
Lotions and Ointments
* First aid manual
* Flashlight and extra batteries
* A list of emergency phone numbers, including those of your child's health care provider, the nearest emergency room, the poison control center (1-800-222-1222), etc. Tape the list to the door of the medicine cabinet door or the lid of the first-aid kit.
* Thermometer. Digital electronic thermometers are battery-operated and last for years. They are accurate, durable, quick to deliver a reading, and can be used in the mouth, armpit, or rectum. For infants, a rectal temperature taken with a digital thermometer is the most accurate. Most digital thermometers "beep" to indicate the correct reading. You may also use an ear thermometer for your older baby or child.
* Nasal bulb or syringe for clearing nasal congestion in babies
* Soap to gently clean cuts and scrapes. Antiseptic solutions such as iodine and Mercurochrome are no longer recommended.
* Premoistened baby wipes
* Rubbing alcohol to clean thermometer before and after use, unless using disposable probe covers
* Scissors and safety pins
* Tweezers, to remove splinters, ticks, or stingers
* Cotton balls and cotton swabs
* Sterile gauze, adhesive tape, and adhesive bandages in several sizes, for minor cuts, scrapes, or burns
* Soft roller bandage to hold smaller bandages in place. Avoid elastic bandages as they are often difficult to wrap and do not fit properly on babies and small children.
* Artificial tears (lubricant eye drops) to flush things out of the eye and an eye pad with bandage to cover the affected eye if the irritation does not resolve after flushing
* Mineral oil, to loosen dry areas on the scalp
* Cold packs. You can also use a small bag of frozen vegetables.
* Disposable gloves
* An accurate measuring device for liquid medications. Household utensils don't provide standard measurements, and so are not very accurate. There are calibrated medication syringes that are useful for babies as well as dispensers fashioned as pacifiers. Plastic calibrated droppers and cylindrical dosage spoons are also available and generally easy to use. Whichever method you choose, be sure your child takes all of the medicine each time it is given. See our article on how to give medicine to children.
* Cool-mist humidifier. This needs to be kept very clean and should be stored in a dry area.
* Clean sheet or pillowcase. Keep one nearby to cover large burns or wounds as you head to your health care provider or emergency room.
Lotions and Ointments
* Sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sparingly on infants under 6 months of age and liberally on older infants and children.
* Petroleum jelly, for lubricating a rectal thermometer, treating minor diaper rashes, and preventing the skin from sticking to the diaper in newborn circumcised males
* An antibiotic cream for minor cuts and scrapes. Apply sparingly after gentle cleaning with soap and water. Avoid creams containing neomycin, as that ingredient can be sensitizing to the skin.
* Calamine lotion for itchy rashes or bites
* Cream or ointment containing zinc oxide for uncomplicated diaper irritation or rashes
* Hydrocortisone cream (0.5%). Keep a small tube available to use if recommended by your health care provider for some skin rashes and irritations. Avoid applying to the face unless instructed to do so by your health care provider.
General guidelines: Check expiration dates regularly and discard anything that's outdated. Child-resistant caps can be difficult even for adults to open, but make sure to protect your children by re-locking and recapping child-resistant bottles properly. Store medications in their original containers in a dry location, unless instructed to refrigerate, and in an area that your children can't reach. It is actually best to keep medications in a cool, dry place away from bright windows and exposure to moisture and humidity so the bathroom medicine cabinet may not be the best choice.
Dosages of medications are generally based on weight and/or age so try to remember your child's weight and check dosage recommendations carefully. If you have any concerns about the correct dosage, call your health care provider. Don't use adult medications for children and don't share prescription medications with other family members. Be especially careful when reaching into the medicine cabinet in the middle of the night—it's easy to grab the wrong bottle or give the incorrect dose when you're sleepy.
* Saline nose drops — a mild saltwater solution used to clear nasal stuffiness or congestion
* Medication to reduce pain and fever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). These medicines are available in different concentrations for babies and children, so be sure to check dosages for the product you have on hand. Do not give your child aspirin or any products containing aspirin. Aspirin has been associated with a liver disease called Reye's syndrome that can occur in children who have a viral illness and receive aspirin.
* Rehydration electrolyte solution to use if your child has diarrhea
* Vitamins, if recommended for your child by your health care provider
* Cold and cough preparations are not recommended for infants and young children.
* Medications for constipation are also generally not recommended for infants and young children. Constipation can usually be managed with dietary and fluid changes*discuss with your health care provider.
* If you choose to use herbal remedies, check with your health care provider or pharmacist first, as some contain ingredients that could be harmful to children, especially if given with other medication.
* Ask your health care provider if he/she recommends keeping an antihistamine medication on hand to give in the event of an allergic reaction, bee sting, or multiple insect bites. If so, ask about preparation and dosage.
Preparing for Disasters
With the items listed above, you'll be equipped to cope with the everyday bumps and bruises, tummy aches and runny noses common to babies and young children. It's also wise to be prepared for the larger challenges of outside disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. A valuable resource you can read and download, at www.aap.org/family/frk/aapfrkfull.pdf, is an overview booklet called "The Family Readiness Kit—Preparing to Handle Disasters."