For college freshmen, going off to school can be exciting, but it can also be stressful and physically taxing. Late-night study sessions, junk-food–filled parties, and easily passed cold and flu viruses can be a toll on an otherwise healthy body.

So, here, in no particular order, are 10 health essentials for any student's medicine cabinet.

Pain Relievers

Everyone gets aches and pains, so having one or two types of all-around pain relievers is essential. Aspirin is a common choice, but products containing other active ingredients, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can be equally effective and are less likely to cause stomach irritation.

Tina Dooley, assistant chief pharmacist at the University of Texas Health Sciences Pharmacy, recommends products containing ibuprofen for their overall versatility in relieving headaches, fever, and swelling, as well as muscle and menstrual pain.


These first aid must-haves come in many sizes and shapes and a well-stocked medicine cabinet should contain a reasonable assortment of individually wrapped bandages, as well as some individually packaged sterile gauze pads.

And, when thinking bandages, don't forget two other bandage-related essentials: a roll of sterile gauze to hold a dressing or splint in place and an elastic ("ace") bandage that can be effective in decreasing swelling or lending support to joints and muscles.

First Aid Equipment

A thermometer is a must for identifying a fever. Although they come in several types and styles, a simple, inexpensive oral thermometer will provide quick, reliable information. You'll also need a pair of scissors for cutting bandages as well as a pair of tweezers for removing splinters.

Cold Medications

Crowded dorms and closed-in lecture halls are perfect breeding grounds for ]]>cold]]> viruses. Pain relievers such as those already mentioned will help to ease the aches and fevers associated with a cold, but nasal decongestants and cough medicines may further help alleviate a cold's most annoying symptoms.


By the time they've reached college, most students know whether they are allergic to grasses, pollens, or other natural elements. But going away to school in a different part of the country presents a new environment with its own set of allergy agents.

Ilene Moore, MD, director of Temple University's student health services, recommends that college students' medicine cabinets contain a nonsedating antihistamine such as Claritin, which, in addition to relieving a stuffy nose, can also treat ]]>hives]]>, itching, and allergic skin reactions.

Stomach Remedies

For the after-effects of late-night pig-out parties, medications such as Zantac (ranitidine), Pepcid (famotidine), and chewable antacids to treat ]]>indigestion]]>, ]]>heartburn]]>, or an upset stomach should be readily available in any student's medicine cabinet. Students who know ahead of time when they're about to make some questionable dietary choices should keep on hand a product containing a long-lasting formula that can be taken up to an hour before embarking upon a culinary adventure.


The importance of cleanliness, especially around a wound, cannot be overstressed. Minor wounds and their surrounding areas can be cleansed with an antiseptic that can be applied as a liquid, ointment, spray, or by towlette.

Artificial Tears

The American Optometric Association (AOA) reminds college students that all-night study sessions or long hours spent in front of a computer often result in dry, tired eyes. For wearers of contact lenses, the AOA says that their medicine cabinets should contain a bottle of the rewetting solution specifically recommended for their lenses. For those students who don't wear contacts, a bottle of artificial tears can help relieve the redness and dryness of overworked eyes.

Dental Floss

A daily routine of flossing not only removes annoying food particles from between the teeth, but it is essential in promoting healthy teeth and gums. The Academy of General Dentistry cautions that students who neglect this necessary routine risk gum disease, which can lead to other serious health complications.


Two types of creams, hydrocortisone and antifungal creams, deserve a place in any student's medicine cabinet. A 1% solution of hydrocortisone cream will not only treat ]]>insect bites]]> and encounters with ]]>poisonous foliage]]>, but it will also relieve the sting of skin rashes caused by soaps, cosmetics, and detergents.

And students who forget that wearing sandals in a communal shower is the best protection against ]]>athlete's foot]]> and other minor foot infections will be thankful that they've packed antifungal cream!

Important Precautions

Of course, before taking any medicines, even those sold over-the-counter, students should check labels to determine the proper dosage as well as what warnings and side effects are associated with the product. They should also check the label or contact their doctor or pharmacist to make sure that the product won't interact with any prescription drugs they might already be taking. Students experiencing persistent symptoms or who think they may have a more serious health problem should contact a doctor immediately.