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Your Home Health Center
More of 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 your self-care.
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. It's a good idea to keep all your family's medical records in one place, such as in your home health center.
Be familiar with the disaster preparation and response plan for your area. Keep the appropriate supplies on hand.
If small children are around, keep your supplies out of reach or stored in containers or cabinets with childproof safety latches.
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 most.
You can make your own cold pack:
- Mix 3 cups (710 mL) water and 1 cup (237 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 pack.
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. A cool-mist humidifier is better for children.
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 allergies. Follow the directions for cleaning the machine.
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.
Pillbox and Pill Splitter
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.
There are many different kinds of pill splitters. Most work like this:
- Place the pill in the slot, and close the lid. A small blade precisely cuts the pill in half.
- Sweep the halves into the open box.
- Pick them up and store them in your normal container.
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 penlights.
There are different types of thermometers.
These are plastic and shaped like a pencil. They have a display window at one end and the temperature probe at the other end. These thermometers can be used in the mouth, rectum, or armpit. They are easy to use and easy to read. If you buy this type of thermometer, check the package for information about its accuracy.
These are also plastic, but they come in different shapes. The small cone-shaped end of the thermometer is placed in the ear. Body temperature is shown on a digital display. The results appear in seconds. Some models also show what the oral and rectal readings would be.
- Temporal artery.
These thermometers have a small "cup" that is moved across the skin over the artery in the forehead. When used correctly, these thermometers are accurate.
These are thin, flat pieces of plastic with colored dots and temperature markings on one end. The color of the dots shows the temperature. These thermometers can be used in the mouth or rectum. A patch form can be used on a baby's skin to measure temperature for 48 hours straight. These thermometers are not as accurate as electronic or ear thermometers.
These are thin pieces of plastic with numbers on them. You press the strip against a person's forehead. The temperature makes some numbers change colors or light up. These thermometers are not very accurate.
These thermometers are shaped like a baby's pacifier. They have a display that shows the temperature. You place the pacifier in your child's mouth to measure temperature. These thermometers may take longer to get a reading. They aren't as accurate as other types.
Current as of: June 6, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
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