11 things every home should have

Some surprising picks from medical, safety experts


Do you ever wonder what your doctor keeps on hand in case of a medical  emergency? Consumer Reports asked experts for their most unexpected must-have health items and why they use them.

1. 100% pure shea butter
Price: $10 to $40.
Keep it on hand to help soothe rashes and dry skin (and even frizzy hair in
a pinch!) Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., is a toxicologist and director of consumer safety at Consumer Reports. He said to make sure it's 100 percent shea butter by looking at the ingredient list. (It shouldn't contain anything other than shea butter.) Rangan said shea butter won't burn when you apply it to really dry skin like some other lotions can.

2. Coconut oil
Price: About $10 to $25.
The fat in coconut oil makes it another great body lotion, according to Robynne Chutkan, M.D., founder of the Digestive Center for Women in Chevy Chase, Md. Apply it to damp skin to help seal in moisture.

3. Distilled white vinegar
Price: About $6 a gallon.
Rubbing on straight-up vinegar can take the itch out of bug bites. Mixing a few drops of rubbing alcohol and vinegar might also help swimmer's ear.  If you're worried about the fumes that can come from chemical-filled cleaning products, consider using distilled vinegar instead.

4. Baking soda
Price: About $3 for a 1-pound box.
If you run out of toothpaste, Consumer Reports recommends checking your cabinet for baking soda. It can make a good toothpaste because it's a mild abrasive and will whiten like a mild bleach. Put some dry baking soda onto a moist toothbrush and brush normally.

5. Chewable baby aspirin
Price: Around $3 for 36 tablets.
Chewing on baby aspirin can be a lifesaver if you think you're having a heart attack. If you think you're having a heart attack (or someone near you is having one), call 911 right away and chew four baby aspirin. Make sure to chew, not gulp them down!

6. Cigarette rolling papers
Price: About $1 per pack.
No, not so that you can light up! These are great for shaving accidents. The little sheets help stop the bleeding from shaving cuts. Dr Orly Avitzur, M.D., a medical adviser to ShopSmart says they work better than tissue or gauze.

7. Plain petroleum jelly
Price: About $4.
Grab this home remedy for minor cuts and scrapes instead of triple antibiotic ointment. This can protect product against infection without the common risk of allergic reaction that you can get with over-the-counter ointments like bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin.

8. Meat thermometer
Price: $6 and up.
You should always cook with a meat thermometer to reduce the risk for food poisoning. The Department of Agriculture recommends cooking steaks and roasts to 145° F; ground meats (beef, lamb, pork, and veal) and egg dishes to 160° F; and all poultry to 165° F.

9. Measuring tape
Price: About $4.
Hate getting on the scale? Measuring your waist circumference every few months is a great way to keep track of your weight.  People who carry weight in their belly are more likely to develop health problems. Consumer Reports' health experts say women with a waist bigger than 35 inches (40 inches for men) are at a higher risk for heart disease.

10. Witch hazel
Price: Around $5 for a 16-ounce bottle.
If you have hemorrhoids, dabbing your sore backside with witch hazel might help ease your discomfort. Witch hazel is the active ingredient in products like Tucks Medicated Cooling Pads. Witch hazel also helps relieve stinging and swelling from insect bites.

11. Neti pot
Price: Around $15 for a starter kit.
Rinsing your nasal passages with a saline solution is great for dealing with allergies. Some research shows that nasal irrigation can help relieve some allergy symptoms. Just be sure to use a saline rinse, distilled water, or tap water that has been boiled and cooled to avoid a dangerous infection. Also, Consumer Reports warns it's important to wash the pot with the same type of water and dry it between uses.