your health care takes place in your home than anywhere else. Having the right
tools, medicines, supplies, and information on hand will improve the quality of
Self-care tools are the basic equipment of your
home health center. Store all your
self-care tools and supplies in a central location, such as a large drawer
in the bedroom or family room. Use the lists of tools and supplies in this
topic as checklists for keeping your home health center stocked. It's a good
idea to keep all your family's medical records in one place, such as in your
home health center. For information on organizing these records, see the topic
Organizing Your Medical Records.
Be familiar with the disaster preparation
and response plan for your area. Keep the appropriate supplies on hand. For
more information on preparedness and recommended supplies, see the topic
Terrorism and Other Public Health Threats.
If small children are around, keep your supplies
out of reach or stored in containers or cabinets with childproof safety
It's important to keep the name and phone number of your doctor and pharmacy handy. Also, post the poison control phone number (1-800-222-1222) in a place where all of your household members can easily find it.
A cold pack is a plastic envelope filled
with gel that remains flexible at very cold temperatures. Buy two cold packs,
and keep them in the freezer. Use them for bumps, bruises, back sprains, turned
ankles, sore joints, or any other health problem that calls for ice. A cold
pack is more convenient than ice and may become the self-care tool you use the
You can make your own cold pack:
Mix 3 cups (710 mL) water and 1 cup (235 mL) rubbing alcohol in a freezer bag.
Seal the bag and place it in the freezer until slush forms.
Refreeze the bag when the slush melts.
A bag of frozen vegetables will also work as a cold
Humidifier and Vaporizer
Humidifiers and vaporizers add moisture to the air, making it less drying to your mouth,
throat, and nose. A humidifier blows cool to lukewarm mist into the air, and a
vaporizer puts out hot steam.
The mist from a humidifier may be
more comfortable to breathe than hot steam. But humidifiers are noisy, produce
particles that may be irritating to some people, and need to be cleaned and
disinfected regularly. Cleaning is especially important for people who have mold
A vaporizer's hot steam is germ-free and may feel good
when you have a cold. But the hot water can burn anyone who overturns or gets
too close to the device.
Medicine spoons are transparent
tubes with marks that show typical dosage amounts. A medicine spoon makes it
easy to give the right dose of liquid medicine. While the spoons are convenient
for anyone, they are particularly helpful for people who have young children.
The tube shape and large lip get most of the medicine into a child's mouth
without spilling. Use the measuring device that comes with the medicine, whenever possible.
A handheld mirror or pocket mirror can come in handy for many uses. For example, you may want to use a mirror to help check your skin for growths or changes or to make it easier to see what you're doing when you use eye ointments or eyedrops.
A pillbox has lots of small compartments to organize your pills for each day of the week or month. A pillbox can help you or a caregiver keep track of which medicines you need to take. If it's the end of the day, and you see a pill in the compartment for that day, you likely forgot to take a dose.
Be sure to leave at least one pill in the original bottle. That way, if you forget what a pill is for, you can find it in the bottle it came from. A few medicines must be stored in their original containers so that they don't spoil. If your medicine label has this instruction, then don't use a pillbox for that medicine.
Store all medicines, vitamins, and supplements as directed. And keep them out of reach of children.
An otoscope is a flashlight with a special
attachment for looking into the
ear. With training, you can use an otoscope to help
you decide if an ear infection is present. Inexpensive consumer-model otoscopes
are available. But they do not put as much light into the ear canal and eardrum
as the one your doctor uses. They can also be used as high-intensity
Digital electronic thermometers
are accurate, easy to read, and durable.
Temperature strips are very convenient and safe but are not as accurate as
digital thermometers and should only be used to measure armpit (axillary)
temperature. They are inaccurate when used on the forehead. Thermometers that
measure the temperature in the ear are fast, easy to use, and quite accurate,
but they are expensive.
Glass thermometers that contain mercury
are no longer recommended because of safety concerns. If you have one in your
home, consider replacing it with a
digital thermometer. You can contact your local recycling center to
see if they dispose of thermometers that contain mercury.
are helpful for children younger than 6 or anyone who cannot hold an oral
thermometer in his or her mouth. For more information on how to take a
temperature, see the topic
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.