1: Adhesive Bandages
Adhesive bandages come in a variety of shapes and colors, from clear to camouflage, and there should be a stash in your medicine chest.
Most scrapes do just fine uncovered, but if you cut or scrape yourself in a place where the wound could get dirty (such as a paper cut on your hand), or where your clothing will rub against it (such as a scraped knee), you're smart to cover it with an adhesive bandage.
Have a deep cut or can't stop the bleeding? See a doctor.
2: Nail Clippers
Adopting frequent nail maintenance habits keeps nails healthy and free from infection. Healthy fingernails and toenails are clean, dry and kept short. Nails should be cut straight across to prevent ingrown nails, rounded slightly at the tips and have smooth nail edges to prevent snagging and tearing.
A few helpful hints when performing your routine maintenance: Be sure not to cut nails below the nail bed or pull on hangnails, which should be clipped, not chewed -- either can open the door to bacterial, fungal and viral infections (warts). And don't dig out an ingrown toenail -- go to a dermatologist for treatment.
When you have a minor cut or scrape, how do you clean it out? While soap and water can take care of cleaning most cuts and scrapes, an antiseptic may help reduce the risk of infection. There are many kinds on the market, some with mild anesthetics to reduce the pain. However, two common standbys are hydrogen peroxide and isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol, which kill bacteria on contact.
And having a bottle of isopropyl alcohol around comes in handy for other uses, too -- it'll clean your bathroom fixtures, tweezers and thermometers, remove hairspray from the bathroom mirror and even prevent ring around the collar.
4: Muscle Cream
Having a muscle cream, balm, self-heating wrap or heating pad on hand to soothe sore muscles or ease lower-back pain is a must. In a recent study, anti-inflammatory skin cream reduced soreness by 45 percent in the 48 hours after exercise over pain reliever pills.
The ingredients in topical creams and adhesive patches like Icy Hot and Bengay are absorbed through your skin into your bloodstream, meaning you should be stingy with how frequently you apply them. Many contain an ingredient called methyl salicylate which is similar to aspirin, and just like aspirin, it can be toxic in high doses. Be safe -- use anti-inflammatory treatments in moderation. Or instead try remedies such as Tiger Balm or massage.
A pair of fine-tipped tweezers will remove things lodged under your skin and keep you pretty -- quite a multitasker.
Tweezers can swiftly remove stray hairs and shape eyebrows. Tweezing excess facial hair, as opposed to shaving it, removes it from below the skin's surface so the results last several weeks longer.
More importantly, though, keeping tweezers in your at-home treatment kit allows you to remove foreign objects from your skin -- namely, splinters and ticks.
Most splinters have one end sticking out from your skin. Grab that end with your tweezers and pull it out slowly to be sure it doesn't leave any pieces behind.
Tick removal is a little more difficult. Take hold of the tick's head with your tweezers and pull away from your skin. Be slow and gentle to avoid crushing the tick. Ignore the myths about using nail polish, petroleum jelly or hot matches to get ticks out -- you need tweezers for this task.
6: Sterile Gauze and Medical Tape
Sterile gauze (in either pad or roll form) and medical tape are for injuries that require something bigger than an adhesive bandage. To dress a wound with the gauze and tape combination, first cut a piece of the material to fit the size of the wound or wrap gauze around it from the roll. Then secure the material in place with the tape.
Remember to change the bandage if the bandage gets wet or dirty -- and if the gauze sticks to a scab or part of the wound, soak the area in warm water to loosen things up.
7: Fungal Medicine
If you find yourself with athlete's foot, don't let it spread to jock itch. To help prevent it, give your groin first priority: After showing, dry your groin before drying your feet (don't let your towel pass it around).
Getting rid of fungal infections is a tricky business. Treatments can be time-consuming and often need to be continued after the symptoms have disappeared -- and chances of re-infection are high. Fungi overgrowth can cause infections in skin and nails, the vagina, the mouth and the sinuses. These should all be treated by your doctor. However, you can usually treat athlete's foot at home with nonprescription fungal medicines (which come in a variety of forms like cream, spray, gel and powders).
8: Dental Floss
If you brush but don't floss, you're not cleaning 100 percent of bacteria out of your mouth -- in fact, you're missing 40 percent of it. Brushing alone sweeps away plaque but only from the surface of your teeth. Floss removes it from between teeth and from under the gum line and is the easiest way to prevent gingivitis -- an infection that does more than irritate your gums. It can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Gum disease is preventable, yet it's the No. 1 reason adults lose their teeth. Keep your teeth: floss daily, after meals.
9: Calibrated Measuring Spoon
Taking a swig of cough suppressant straight from the bottle or with a soup spoon from your kitchen may not seem like a bad idea when your head is fuzzy from a cold. But it's always important to dispense and take the correct dose of medicine -- the results may not be the same at a different doses and you could run into serious health problems if you take more medicine than you should. Some medicines come packaged with a measuring cup, but since that's not standard practice, a calibrated measuring spoon (or calibrated measuring cup) makes it easy to administer the correct dose of medicine for adults and for kids every time.
Everyone should keep a thermometer on hand to check for fevers. What you may not know is what kind of thermometer to have.
Poison control centers around the country receive 15,000 phone calls each year due to broken glass mercury thermometers. Mercury is a neurotoxin that poisons our nervous systems, damaging the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver. It also affects our hearing, speech and sight, as well as how we think and feel. Human health isn't the only concern about mercury: It's also bad for the health of our environment.
If you still have one, it's time to switch. Many states offer mercury thermometer exchange programs. Get yourself a safer alternative such as a digital electronic thermometer, a glass alcohol thermometer, a glass gallium-indium-tin (galinstan) thermometer, an ear canal thermometer, or a flexible forehead.