5 things to toss out of your medicine cabinet

October 5, 2015

Here are five over-the-counter products found in many medicine cabinets that doctors say should be used sparingly, if at all.

5 things to toss out of your medicine cabinet

1. Hydrocortisone cream

  • Hydrocortisone cream is used to treat skin inflammation and itchiness from poison ivy, hemorrhoids and other problems.
  • Although it's safe for occasional use, applying hydrocortisone regularly over long periods may thin the skin. Also, the cream won't help a persistent rash.
  • Ordinary moisturizing cream may help relieve mild skin discomfort. If you have a serious skin rash, see a doctor, who can prescribe stronger medication.

2. Hydrogen peroxide

  • Hydrogen peroxide is used for many purposes, including as a disinfectant for cuts and wounds.
  • It actually slows wound healing by preventing inflammatory cells from repairing damaged tissue.
  • Try rinsing a cut with water instead. Applying an antibiotic ointment can also help.
  • Doctors may recommend using small amounts of hydrogen peroxide solution to treat surgical wounds.

3. Ipecac syrup

  • This product induces vomiting and was once widely recommended for treating accidental poisoning.
  • There's no evidence to suggest that giving ipecac syrup to poison victims saves lives. Some swallowed toxins may actually be more damaging if vomited.
  • Instead of using ipecac syrup, call your local poison control centre. Keep the number near the telephone.
  • If someone you believe has been poisoned has convulsions, stops breathing or loses consciousness, call your local emergency responder.

4. Laxatives

  • Laxatives are a variety of products designed to make stools easier to pass.
  • Frequent use of laxatives can lead to dependence.
  • A strong laxative may empty the intestines, resulting in no need for a bowel movement the next day. Some people interpret this as a sign of constipation, so they take more.
  • Instead, eat a high-fibre diet.
  • Don't use a laxative just because you haven't had a bowel movement for a day. That's normal.
  • See a doctor if you have chronic constipation.

5. Over-the-counter sleep aids

  • Most sleep aids contain antihistamines, which cause drowsiness.
  • Sleep aids increase shut-eye time by minutes, at most, and may lose effectiveness with repeated use.
  • Side effects include dry mouth, dizziness and fatigue when you awake.
  • Antihistamines make some people jittery and anxious.
  • Instead of sleep aids, try going to bed and waking up at the same hour every day.
  • Avoid daytime naps. Exercise regularly, but not before bedtime.
  • You could also try taking a warm bath or listening to soft music before going to sleep.

Our medicine cabinets fill up quite quickly, and we usually only clean out the expired stuff. But don't stop there, you can probably clear out more space by getting rid of these products too.

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