4 Essential Money-Saving Items You Need in Your Medicine Cupboard

by Jamie Simmerman · 6 comments

medicine cabinet

As a parent, there’s nothing worse than taking your sick child to see a doctor only to be sent home and told to return in a few days if he or she gets worse (which usually happens). We have health insurance, but a visit to the doctor is still money out of the family budget that could be used elsewhere. Two visits for the same illness is especially painful.

As a nurse, I often teach parents of children to keep a small supply of over-the-counter medications to help cut back on calls to the doctor and trips to the ER in the middle of the night. The same goes for adults. If you keep a few staples on hand, you’ll end up saving money in the long run.

Here are four essential medical items that will help you cut back on costs during an illness*:

medicine cupboard essentials1. Advil and Tylenol

You can alternate the two medications every hour to help control a high fever. In most cases, a low- to mid-grade fever is actually helpful in fighting off whatever is making you sick, so only treat temperatures above 101 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a good old fashioned glass thermometer unless you want to invest in the latest temperature-taking device. Digital thermometers that cost less than $10 are often unreliable and inaccurate.

2. Boric Acid Powder

This inexpensive powder can be used to treat a variety of infections without a prescription (and without antibiotics). For example, you can fill an empty gelatin capsule with approximately 600 mg of boric acid powder and insert it vaginally to cure most yeast or bacterial infections.

The cost of the powder and gel caps will run about $15 while the average over-the-counter yeast infection treatment is $12-20. Boric acid can also be mixed with sterile water to serve as an infection-fighting soak for burns. It will also treat stubborn athlete’s foot and severe acne breakouts.

3. Benadryl

Benadryl, which can be used to treat allergic reactions, is a must-have for all medicine kits. If someone develops hives or swelling of the mouth, tongue or throat, give them Benadryl (liquid works fastest) and get them to the ER.

It can also be used to safely treat mild insomnia (in kids and adults), relieve pressure from colds and flu, treat seasonal allergies, and dry up ear drainage  — which can relieve the pressure of an earache until you can get to the doctor.

4. Saline Nasal Rinse

Yes, it’s unpleasant to think about rinsing your sinuses, but doctors and allergy specialists often swear by daily sinus rinsing to help control allergy symptoms. It also helps relieve cold symptoms faster and keeps a simple bug from developing into an all-out sinus infection, ear infection, or respiratory infection. There are sinus rinsing devices available for kids and adults, and the Nettie squeeze bottle is easy enough for a child to use, with supervision.

Always use your best judgment to decide when to seek medical care. While it’s okay to treat colds and minor illnesses at home, serious conditions can quickly develop (especially in children and infants). Go with your gut instinct. If you think something isn’t right and are worried, call a doctor. But for many common health problems, treating symptoms at home can help you save a bundle.

What items do you always keep in your medicine cupboard?

*Of course, you should clear all medications and procedures with your doctor or pediatrician.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Paul says:

    Sorry, but that was “5” items… not 4

  • Brandy says:

    Benadryl is a must for sure! Last year I was bitten by a copperhead and I took Benadryl as soon as possible. It kept my leg from swelling and cutting off circulation. One of the biggest worries after a snake bit is losing a limb from lack of blood flow. You never know what is going to happen….

  • Michelle's Finance Journal says:

    I suffer from mild insomnia and I never knew about Benadryl. This is a great tip. I’ll definitely try that next time and hopefully it’ll work for me. Thanks~

  • Bryan says:

    I always keep rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, cotton swabs, bandages, tape and antibiotic ointment in my medicine cabinet

  • Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle says:

    I worry about Americans delaying doctor visits to save money when there is real need to go. Sometimes waiting can end up costing so much more.

    Thoughts from a Canadian with a day off work watching a giant snow storm out her window.

  • Adele says:

    I keep theraflu in both day time and night time versions and at the first sign of a cold, zap it! It helps enormously and has saved me from using sick days.

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