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Downsizing your medicine chest.

If you're in the mood to reorganize your medical holdings, the first step is to throw out what you don't need, which might include the following items:

* Prescription drugs you didn't use up. Medications prescribed for a specific condition that has since cleared up should be thrown away, not kept around "just in case." Get rid of outdated medications, too. Flush them down the toilet or dispose of them so that children or pets won't find them in a wastebasket.

* Iodine, hexylresorcinol, Merthiolate, Mercurochrome, and similar products. These actually are not effective disinfectants and can burn the skin under a tight bandage. Be wary, generally, of any product that claims to promote healing.

* Hydrogen peroxide. This old standby for "cleansing" can actually damage skin and retard healing. Water is better.

* Stimulant laxatives (such as Ex-Lax, Feen-A-Mint, and cascara). A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, plus two quarts of fluid daily, will keep you from needing a laxative. Stimulant laxatives, which work by irritating the intestinal wall, can be habit-forming. If you need a laxative, use a bulk laxative (such as Metamucil), which is high in fiber.

What to keep

* A pair of tweezers (for removing ticks, slivers, or dirt particles from a wound), plus a pair of special, thin-tipped "tick tweezers" if you hike often in woods or fields.

* Bandages (assorted sizes), gauze, and adhesive tape.

* An over-the-counter pain reliever. Because no single pain reliever is right for every situation or every person, you might keep more than one type on hand (see Wellness Letter, July 1994).

* A simple antacid, especially one with calcium (such as Tums or Rolaids).

* A remedy for mild diarrhea (such as Pepto-Bismol or Imodium), which can be bought in generic form.

* Calamine lotion for soothing insect bites or poison ivy.

* OTC hydrocortisone cream (1%) for skin rashes, insect bites, and contact dermatitis. It generally should not be used on any eruption caused by fungi, viruses, or bacteria (for instance, athlete's foot, ringworm, cold sores, or infected areas).

* A fever thermometer.

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Title Annotation:items to keep and throw away
Publication:The University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter
Date:Oct 1, 1994
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