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Essential Medications Every Parent Should Have: A Nurse Mom's Guide to Building the Perfect Medicine Box

My worst nightmare: we're out at friends, it's 21:00 and my child cries. I hurry into the room where they're sleeping and its hot. They're hot, the room is hot, I'm even hot. But it's late and I can't get to a pharmacy. What now?


If thinking about this gives you some kind of PTSD you're probably a parent and this has probably happened to you at least once before. This is why I travel with my medicine box, even just down the road to a friends house. So what have I got in mine and why is it important?


For pain and fevers:


The most important thing that any good medicine box needs is a good quality thermometer. This doesn't need to be expensive but it does need to be trustworthy. I personally prefer a digital thermometer because it is easier to read in the heat of the moment (no pun intended). Another personal preference, is a thermometer that doesn't need a probe cover to function (a piece of soft plastic that covers the part that goes against the baby and is disposable and should be changed after each use). Just because the time when you need to use it, usually happens to be the same time when you cannot find a probe cover.


Paracetamol/Panado

As a nurse, I can't overstate the value of paracetamol-containing medication. These are medicines that are the first-line for fever management. These include medicines like Calpol (for babies over the age of 3 months), panado syrup (the green one can be used from birth) and other generics such as Painmol.


What's great about a paracetamol-containing medication is that it is actually designed for pain with an off-label use for fever, so that means that any pain that's caused by whatever is making your little one sick will also help with pain management. I've personally found that Calpol works the best for my kids, but this is something that is personal to each child and I would recommend testing this out for your kids.


Calpol Pediatric Syrup Strawberry
Image: https://clicks.co.za/

Anti-Inflammatory

An anti-inflammatory is a great second-line option for a fever if a paracetamol-containing medication isn't effective in lowering a fever and/or pain. These are medications like Neurofen Pediatric Suspension (which can only be given from 2 years old). Another great option is Panamor suppositories which are also only suitable for children above the age of 2 years old but requires a prescription.



Neurofen Suspension for Children Strawberry
Image: https://clicks.co.za/

Combination of Paracetamol and Anti-inflammatory

These are medications like Myprodol Syrup which have a mix of both an anti-inflammatory and Paracetamol. These work really well for a higher fever or extreme pain. These can also only be given to children over the age of 2 years old. Medicines like Myprodol Syrup also contain a codeine which is an opioid (same class of drug as morphine) which makes kids pretty tired, so bear that in mind when giving these.



Myprodol Suspension
Image: https://www.canva.com/

For coughing:


Cough syrup

Cough syrup is quite a toughy for the very little ones because there aren't very many that are safe for under 3 year olds. Many pharmacies have brands that contain ammonium chloride but research (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5253529/) has found that there isn't much evidence to suggest that this really works. Cough syrups that contain dried ivy leaf, on the other hand, have been proven to reduce mucus in the airway. Cough syrups such as Prospan are herbal combinations that include dried ivy leaf and are safe from birth. This is something that I definitely always have in my medicine box.



Prospan Cough Syrup
Image: https://www.dischem.co.za/


Nebulizer and saline

Nebulizing is something that is best left for scheduled medications prescribed by your doctor, but I definitely think that each family needs to invest in a good nebulizer. If your little one has a bit of a tight chest though, starting to nebulize while you wait for your doctor's appointment could help in the meantime. Never nebulize with medications not prescribed for your baby as these may be unsafe, rather stick to sterile saline until something is prescribed.



Handheld Ultrasonic Nebulizer
I love these handheld nebulizers - they're super quiet and convenient (Inmage: https://www.dischem.co.za/)

For a blocked nose:


Blocked noses and babies go hand-in-hand. Most new babies and even older babies struggle with blocked noses. Therefore, we need something that we can use often with minimal side effects. While things like Otrivin Paed work SO well for a blocked nose during an illness, its known to cause rebound congestion (meaning it blocks the nose) after 5 days of repeated use.


FloBaby Saline Nasal Spray
Image: https://svmoregroup.com/product/flo-baby-saline-nasal-spray/

For tummies:


Cramps

Buscopan Syrup is a must have for any medicine box. It works for relieving stomach cramps in our littles. This medicine can be bought over-the-counter and given to babies who are older than 1 month old. This can be used for anything from small baby cramps to full on stomach pain in older children. While this medicine tastes horrible (I challenge you have a little sip), there really isn't anything else that works as well, in my opinion.



Buscopan 0.1% Syrup
Image: https://paedsoffering.co.za/

Nausea & Vomiting

Valoid works like a bomb for nausea and vomiting in children over the age of 2. Valoid is also available in suppository form which is sometimes a lot better if your child is vomiting to make sure that it is not being vomited out again. This is definitely something that will come in handy as little ones can dehydrate so quickly. If your child has repeated vomiting it's always best to seek medical advice.



Valoid Pediatric Syrup
Image: https://medsinfo.sahpra.org.za/

Diarrhea

My go-to for diarrhea is Pectrolyte, and this is something that I always have in my house for adults as well. This can be given to children above the age of 3 years old. There are other medicines that can be given to children under the age of 3 (such as Smecta) but my personal feeling on this is if a child has bad enough diarrhea to need medicine, it is safer to take them to a doctor because they can become severely dehydrated incredibly quickly.


Pectrolyte Syrup
Image: https://www.saffas.co.za/

Reflux

Reflux is also quite a tough one to treat and it's something that a baby usually grows out of rather than gets treated for. There are some medications that can aid your baby's comfort though. Baring in mind, these won't take the reflux away. They will just make it less acidic. One that I really love is Milk of Magnesia. The reason why is that it reduces acidity but also draws water into the gut therefore reducing the risk of constipation that so many anti-reflux medications and formulas cause.


Phipp's Milk of Magnesia
Image: https://clicks.co.za/

For bumps and scrapes:


Wound cleaning

It's always handy to have a good wound cleaner for those minor bumps and scratches. Please remember that for bigger deeper wounds it's always best to seek out medical help as wound cleaning solutions may hamper wound healing. In terms of those minor cuts, though, I love the Elastoplast Wound Spray. I love that it's a spray bottle which reduces the risk of further infection from a cotton ball etc.


Elastoplast Wound Spray
Image: https://www.dischem.co.za/elastoplast-antiseptic-wound-spray-50ml-906

It's always good to have some gauze, bandages and plasters handy, as well, for your minor bumps and scrapes. Sometimes little hearts also just need a plaster to feel better.


Going on holiday:


Sun screen:

The last few things are a must for any travel medicine box. 1. a good HIGH SPF sunscreen (SPF >50). It has been found that less than 3 sunbuns a year is associated with the development of skin cancer. It's our responsibility to protect our children's skin for when they are older. Any brand of sun-screen will do. Make sure you're applying every couple of hours, keep your kiddos in the shade and make sure they're wearing hats and long costumes. Our sun is vicious. Remember that our little babies under the age of 6 months cannot process sunscreen and so you cannot put it on them so for them it's safest to keep them indoors or in the shade. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0959804994003375)


Mozzie repellent

This always comes in handy at home or away. A mozzie bite is not usually serious but can be quite irritating and itchy for our little ones. Remember that as with sunscreen there aren't very many insect repellents that are safe for children under the age of 6 months old so for them rather keep them covered and use a mosquito net for sleeping. For the older kiddos i absolutely love the Purity Insect Repellent which comes in a lovely spray bottle which makes application MUCH easier.


Purity Insect Repellent for Babies
Image: https://www.babycity.co.za/purity-elizabeth-anne-s-baby-insect-repellent-spray-125ml-164871?

And that's what I have in my medicine box. I have a great little plastic box with handles and it travels with me wherever I go.


Let us know what else you have in your medicine box?


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