Everything You Need to Buy for Your Medicine Cabinet This Summer

published Jun 8, 2021
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As we welcome warmer weather, newly skinned knees and shoulders tinted red like lobsters have us thinking about all the items we need to stock up on for summer first aid. Unlike the kit we have floating around in the car, you might need a few extras beyond band-aids and bacitracin for summer care. 

If you don’t have an actual medicine cabinet, a bag or bin will do just as well — the idea is to keep everything you need together in one place. I’m obsessed with these Baboon To The Moon Dopp kits, but in all honesty, we keep everything we could ever need in a bin from the Dollar Store. Inside the bin everything is organized into smaller zip bags; bandages are all together in one, ointments and creams are in another, and so on.

Since she was so extremely helpful with our sunscreen article, I called on my friend Dr. Sarah Chamlin, mom and pediatric dermatologist at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, once again for advice. We chatted about what she thought was important to include for summer, and between the two of us, we came up with a list that should cover all your basic summer bumps, bruises, scrapes, scratches, and burns.

First up: Mosquito repellent to keep biters away

If you really want to keep the mosquitos away, Dr. Sarah recommends looking for a bug spray with Deet — just look for one with a lower percentage. I found this one from Off!  that is 15% deet compared to 30% found in other sprays.

For mosquito bite relief

To soothe those itchy arms and legs, Dr. Sarah says you don’t need anything other than a hydrocortisone 1% ointment, so you can ignore all those crazy bite relief pens that are being marketed to you on social media!

If the itching is really bad, CeraVe makes a great itch relief cream. In addition to those, I always stock our medicine cabinet with calamine lotion. I find it not only works to dry out bites, but those little pink dots are a great reminder not to scratch! 

An important note from Dr. Sarah on topical itch ointments: Always look at ingredients to be sure they don’t contain Benadryl. Oral Benadryl is fine (best taken at bedtime) but topical is not recommended as it’s very easy to administer too much, which can cause adverse side effects.

For sunny play 

We have a great guide for finding the best sunscreen at drugstores here, but these are the five things you always want to look for:

  • Broad spectrum (to protect from harmful UVA and UVB rays that can cause skin cancer)
  • At least SPF 30 or higher
  • Water-resistant for at least 40 minutes, preferably 80 minutes
  • Active ingredients should ONLY be zinc oxide and.or titanium oxide
  • You don’t want to load up your skin with chemicals, so look for something natural, specifically a mineral sunscreen.

For sunburns

Hydrocortisone 1% ointment, and a thick moisturizer like Cetaphil cream or CeraVe cream that you store in the refrigerator are your best line of defense. Instant ice packs are great as well, and you’ll definitely want to have Tylenol and Motrin on hand, as well as instant ice packs. For lip burns, use Aquaphor, Vaseline, or CeraVe healing ointment, and an ice pack.

For itchy eyes

For itchy eyes that have been in a pool too long without goggles, or as a result of seasonal allergies, don’t forget to grab saline eye drops

Bandages — especially waterproof ones — for bumps and scrapes

Not all bandages are created equally — especially if you have kids who live in the water all summer long, where bandaids do not last! Invest in a selection of quality bandages and keep them labeled in a pouch so you don’t have to waste precious time sorting through them all just to find a waterproof one. Here are a few different kinds that will come in handy this summer:

  • Steri-strips are great for areas that are hard to cover, and can be cut to size, making them a little bit less noticeable than using lots of big bulky bandages.  
  • Non-stick pads and paper tape are good for skinned knees and scrapes on arms and other tender or sensitive skin that regular bandages would be too harsh for.
  • Waterproof bandages are a summer must-have and perfect for your little fishies. The only downside is that they can be brutal to pull off. Try using a cotton ball with baby oil, or an ice pack to make removal a bit easier.
  • Use ace bandages for sprains and strains. I’ve also found them to be helpful for unexplained leg pains that require lots of attention.
  • Bandanas can be used as makeshift slings, wound wraps, or a towel.

Soap and water is all you need to clean the wound, or you can use hydrogen peroxide diluted with water. Follow up with one of the trinity of Dr. Sarah’s favorite healing ointments: Aquaphor, Vaseline, or CeraVe, and cover it completely with whatever bandage makes the most sense. Always keep the wound covered and moist with one of the three healing ointments.

For poison Ivy

Again, no special “poison ivy” ointment required: just grab the hydrocortisone 1% and maybe a few instant ice packs.

For splinters

Wood chips on the playground and open toe shoes are never a good match! For splinters, get a pair of good, pointy tweezers and a magnifying glass. If you don’t have pointy tweezers, a sewing needle will work in a pinch; just be sure to clean the point off with rubbing alcohol before each use. 

And of course, an endless supply of kisses and popsicles never fail to make everything better!