The coronavirus pandemic has caused tens of millions of people to take extraordinary measures to avoid public places and “socially distance” from one another in an attempt to avoid contracting the disease. Even with these measures, however, caregivers including parents are still advised to be prepared and keep a well-stocked medicine cabinet.

While hoarding supplies and medications is absolutely unnecessary, there are a few staples that can be useful.

Take an Inventory

Set aside a half hour to do a quick inventory of your medicine cabinet. Babies grow fast and medications expire, doses change, and that bottle of liquid acetaminophen you bought last year may be out of date or nearly empty.

Check the dates on all medications and discard any that are out of date, as well as any half-finished prescription medications. Also, make sure you have specific measuring devices for medications. You should always dose medications with the proper tools, not a spoon or other implements, to avoid accidental overdose.

Fever-Reducing Medications

Babies under the age of six months may take acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) for fever or pain. Tylenol’s infant formula comes with a syringe that makes dosing easier. Over age six months, ibuprofen is an alternative to acetaminophen and comes in multiple brand and generic names. It is a good idea to have a bottle of each handy, as your doctor might tell you to alternate medications.

Acetaminophen also comes a rectal suppository. Buying a small box of these can be a lifesaver when you have a vomiting child with a fever or one who spits medication across the room.


An antihistamine is also a good idea to have at home for minor allergic reactions, bug bites, and itchy rashes. Pediatricians prefer the second-generation antihistamines (e.g., Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra) because of their longer-lasting effects and less frequent dosing. Under age 2 years, ask your doctor for dosing advice. Over age 2, these also come in chewable forms.

Topical Medications

A few topical medications are also recommended. Have on hand a new tube of triple-antibiotic cream for simple cuts and scrapes. There are formulas that have an added pain reliever, which some people also find useful. An over-the-counter anti-itch cream containing cortisone is recommended for itchy bug bites or mild atopic dermatitis and can safely be used, avoiding the eyes, mouth, and nose. For children still in diapers, an anti-fungal cream such as the prescription nystatin for diaper rash caused by yeast is also a good idea, but over-the-counter options are available too.

Nasal Spray

Nasal saline spray or drops can be used for mild nasal congestion in babies and young children but should be changed frequently. Discard old sprays and have a new unopened one available. A nasal suction device (aspirator) such as a bulb syringe or NoseFrida, as well as a cool mist humidifier to use when congested and coughing, can also be useful.

Constipation Treatments

A small box of glycerin suppositories can be helpful to have on hand in case of constipation that’s causing discomfort in infants and toddlers. These come in pediatric size.

Rehydrating Liquids

Finally, some electrolyte solution such as Pedialyte is also good to keep. For older kids, this can be frozen into popsicles to slowly rehydrate a child who has been vomiting.


  • Take an inventory of your family medicine cabinet.
  • Throw away expired medicines.
  • Medicines to keep on hand include fever reducers, skin creams, and antihistamines.
  • Always follow proper dosing.

Last reviewed by Sara Connolly, MD. Review Date: March 2020


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