The Well-Stocked Medicine Cabinet Every College Student Needs

College students can get sick at school just like they can at home. A well-stocked medicine cabinet can help them get through anything from the common cold to headaches from late-night study sessions. Here are some must have items to include.


Look for a box of bandages with many sizes and shapes. It can help to protect tricky spots like fingers or toes. Some bandages are also water and sweat proof. You may also want to keep a bottle of liquid bandage on hand. The liquid forms a seal over small wounds. It is waterproof and can last for a few days.

You should also have bandages for emergencies. Gauze pads, rolls, and tape can help with larger wounds. An elastic bandage can help with joint or muscle problems.

First Aid Tools

Small first aid kits can be found in many stores. They should have:

  • A pair of scissors for cutting bandages
  • A pair of tweezers to remove splinters or ticks
  • Cloth that can be used as sling

Some kits also have creams to clean cuts or soothe burns. Look for the kit that contains the items you will use most.

Antiseptics and Antibiotic Ointment

Minor wounds should be cleaned well to lower the risk of infection. Antiseptics come in liquid, spray, or towel form. An antibiotic ointment can also be put on the wound after cleaning.

Pain Relievers

There are many types of medicines you can take to ease pain or lower a fever, such as:

  • Acetaminophen—good for pain and fever relief
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen—to treat fever, pain, and inflammation.

You may like one more than another. Keep in mind:

  • NSAIDs can cause an upset stomach. Take them with food.
  • Do not mix these medicines with alcohol. It can raise the risk of bleeding in the stomach and intestines.
  • If you are younger than 18, do not take aspirin if you have an infection. Rarely, it may cause serious problems.

Cold Medicine

Crowded dorms and lecture halls make it easy for colds and flus to spread. Decongestants and cough medicine can help ease your symptoms. But keep in mind that some of these medicines have the same ingredients in pain relievers. Read the labels to make sure you are not taking too much of any one ingredient.


Going to school in a different part of the country may expose you to new allergens. An antihistamine can help ease a reaction in your body. There are many forms. Some work quickly but can make you sleepy. Others can be taken every day and do not make you sleepy. There are also antihistamine creams that you can use on your skin to ease rashes or itching.

Skin Problems

Two types of creams are good to have handy for skin problems:

  • Hydrocortisone—to soothe irritation caused by insect bites or rashes from things like poison ivy
  • Antifungal creams—to treat athlete's foot or jock itch

Stomach Remedies

It is common to have problems like heartburn and upset stomach when you are away from home and eating different foods. Liquid medicine or chewable tablets can help to ease discomfort. It is better to have them there when you need them.

Artificial Tears

Long nights and screen time can leave your eyes dry and irritated. Artificial tears can help to ease redness and dryness. Contact wearers can also use rewetting drops.

A Thermometer

A thermometer is needed to check or track a fever. A simple, low cost digital one will work well.

Some Final Tips

You should always check the labels of the medicines you take. Learn about any side effects that may happen and tell your doctor if you have any. If you take prescription medicine, talk to your pharmacist or doctor before taking medicine.

With a little planning, your medicine cabinet will help you get through most health problems that you will have while you are in college. Fewer aches and pains will mean you can give your full attention to your courses.


Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians

Food and Drug Administration


The College of Family Physicians of Canada

Health Canada


College medicine cabinet checklist. Healthy Women website. Available at: Accessed June 9, 2021.

What are NSAIDS? American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: Accessed June 9, 2021.

Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 6/10/2021