Among the strange items found in a half-dozen family medicine chests were old cloths to be used as bandages, cracked atomizer bulbs, horehound candy, shoehorns, curling irons, dried sponges, packages of seeds, hair grease, mange cure, face bleach, shoe polish, empty tooth paste and shaving cream tubes, fifty different remedies for colds, combs for permanent waves, bobby pins, the remaining partners of divorced cuff links, nail polish, bath salts, and discarded sets of teeth.
The number of antiseptics found, and their efficiency, varied tremendously. One or two antiseptics were found in some cases, and as many as six different antiseptics in others, individual members of the family having their own likes and dislikes in these matters.
A household remedy should be one with a certain definite action, and usually it should contain but one active ingredient. If the thing is worth keeping in the medicine chest it should be something which is used fairly frequently.
Dangerous poisons have no place in the family medicine chest. A dangerous poison is one which is likely to produce serious symptoms or death if taken in even moderate amounts.
The wise person will go over the family medicine chest at least once every three months and discard all materials not constantly in use. It is also well to have the family doctor take a look at the materials, offer his advice on those worth keeping, and make suggestions as to what is needed.
Suitable Items For Medicine Chests
Most families want to keep on hand a laxative or cathartic. Under certain circumstances any laxative or cathartic may be exceedingly dangerous, most conspicuously in appendicitis. Appendicitis is at first just an infected spot on a little organ which extends from the large bowel and which, apparently, has no serious function in the human body. If this infection develops, as a boil develops from a pimple, it is in danger of bursting and spreading throughout the body. Therefore, no laxative or cathartic should ever be taken when the abdomen is exceedingly painful.
Most modem women prefer to keep their cosmetics in their own boudoirs, but the man of the house is likely to put his into the family medicine cabinet. They should include, in most instances, a razor, which should be kept in its box and not permitted to lie around loose, also some shaving soap or cream, some face lotion, which may be either witch hazel or a special lotion which he prefers.
Among the antiseptics approved by the Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry are preparations of hexylresorcinol and preparations of metaphen, also merthiolate, zephiran, cepryl, and neutral solutions of chlorinated soda and hydrogen peroxide. The Council has not approved antiseptics commonly represented as being useful in the relief of all sorts of infections of the throat and also for the prevention of various types of infectious diseases, including colds.
One of the best old-fashioned antiseptic solutions for common use around the home is boric-acid solution. Most people prefer to have packages of crystals of boric acid or of the powder and to make up the solution fresh just before use.
In these days when everybody takes the chance of needing emergency first-aid treatment, because of the use of the automobile and wide indulgence in sports and gardening, it is well to have first-aid supplies in the family medicine chest. Among the materials needed are adhesive tape of various widths, sterile cotton, sterile gauze bandages, sterile gauze pads, and a scissors which should be kept in the medicine chest exclusively for such purposes. You should also have the ready-made combination of a piece of adhesive tape with a tiny piece of sterilized bandage, that can be used to cover small wounds after they have been treated with iodine or mercurochrome.
Most people should know that the proper way to stop bleeding of small wounds is simply to press upon them with a sterile piece of gauze.
In cases of very serious wounds affecting arteries, and thereby difficult to control, it may be necessary to put a tourniquet around the limb. The tourniquet should be fastened just tight enough to stop the bleeding. An ordinary piece of rubber tubing or a narrow towel tied and twisted with a stick will serve most purposes satisfactorily..
The family medicine chest may also contain aromatic spirits of ammonia, which is sometimes given when a prompt stimulant is needed, following fainting. Half a teaspoonful in water, for a sudden fainting spell, is a fairly safe thing to give in most cases of this emergency.
It is not advisable to use a styptic in the form of a stick of alum to stop slight bleeding after shaving. Much better are any of the astringent surgical powders, of which a small amount may be taken from the box on each occasion and applied directly to the bleeding point.
Finally, any good talcum powder may be used after shaving and after bathing, according to the individual preferences of the users.
It is taken for granted that every modem household has a good clinical thermometer, a hot water bottle, and an ice bag. These are three exceedingly useful devices in any home, and when they are available in an emergency the comfort they give is tremendous.
In addition to the materials used for first aid, most families will have bedpans for use in cases of illness, glass drinking-tubes, syringes for giving enemas, atomizers, and sometimes special devices for creating steam to be medicated with small amounts of tincture of benzoin for relief in various forms of hoarseness or other conditions affecting the larynx and the lungs.
Medicines rightly used can be of immense aid and comfort to the afflicted; wrongly used, they may cause serious damage to the human body. When a doctor prescribes medicines for a patient, they are for that particular patient and not for anybody else in the family.
When you measure out the medicine think of what you are doing and pay no attention to anything else. Medicines are usually prescribed in dosages of drops, teaspoons, fractions of teaspoons, and spoons of larger sizes. Because spoons are nowadays in many fanciful shapes and sizes, each family should have a medicine glass with measures of various spoons recorded. When a doctor prescribes a certain number of drops they should be measured with a medicine dropper and not by guesswork.
If liquid medicine is being prescribed the bottle should be thoroughly shaken each time before the medicine is measured. Most medicine should be mixed with a little water when taken, but sometimes the medicine may be put in the mouth and washed down with a swallow of water. Pills and capsules should either be handed to the patient from the original package, so that he may help himself, put the pill or capsule on the back of the tongue, and wash it down with a drink of water, or else be brought to the patient on a spoon, so that he may take the pill or capsule from the spoon. The person waiting on the patient should not carry the capsules or pills in the palm of the hand, where they may be softened or disintegrated by moisture or contaminated from the hands.
There are several ways in which medicines of unpleasant taste may be made more palatable. If very cold water is taken it will serve to cover up the taste. It is not advisable to give medicine to children in foods, particularly in milk, as this may create a distaste for the food or milk which lasts for a long time afterward.