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Your Home Health Centre

Self-Care Tools

Cold Pack - Humidifier and Vaporizer - Medicine Spoon - Otoscope - Penlight - Stethoscope and Blood Pressure Cuff - Thermometer - How to Take a Temperature - How to Read a Thermometer

Self-care tools are the basic equipment of your home health centre.

Cold Pack

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A cold pack is a plastic envelope filled with gel that remains flexible at very cold temperatures. Buy 2 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:

A bag of frozen vegetables will also work as a cold pack.

Humidifier and Vaporizer

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Humidifiers and vaporizers add moisture to the air, making it less drying to your mouth, throat, and nose. A humidifier produces a cool mist, and a vaporizer puts out hot steam.

Cool mist from a humidifier may be more comfortable to breathe than hot steam. However, humidifiers are noisy, produce particles that may be irritating to some people, and need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly. This is especially important for people who have mold allergies.

A vaporizer's hot steam does not contain any irritating particles, and you can add medications such as Vicks VapoRub to ease breathing. Steam may feel good when you have a cold, but the hot water can burn anyone who overturns or gets too close to the vaporizer.

Medicine Spoon

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Medicine spoons are transparent tubes with marks that indicate 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

Self-Care Tools

For every household:

  • Blood pressure cuff*

  • Cold pack*

  • Dental mirror

  • Eyedropper

  • Heating pad

  • Humidifier or vaporizer*

  • Medicine spoon*

  • Nail clippers

  • Penlight*

  • Scissors

  • Stethoscope*

  • Thermometer*

  • Tweezers

For children younger than 6, add:

  • Bulb aspirator/syringe

  • Rectal thermometer*

  • Otoscope*

*Described in text

young children. The tube shape and large lip get most of the medication into a child's mouth without spilling. Buy one at your local pharmacy.

Medicine spoon


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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 illuminate the ear canal and eardrum as well as the one your doctor uses does. They can also be used as high-intensity penlights.


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A penlight has a small, intense light that can be easily directed. It is useful for looking into the mouth or throat or examining the skin, and it is easier to handle than a flashlight.

Stethoscope and Blood Pressure Cuff

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If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, it's a good idea to have both a stethoscope and a blood pressure cuff (sphygmomanometer) to monitor your blood pressure regularly.

Purchase a flat diaphragm-model stethoscope rather than a bell-shaped one. The flat surface makes it easier for you to hear.

Blood pressure cuffs come in many models. If you have difficulty reading the gauge on a regular cuff, look for a model that uses an upright mercury column, or an electronic digital model. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a blood pressure kit and show you how to use it.

Self-Care Supplies

The supplies listed below are useful to keep on hand in your home health centre. The products are inexpensive, easy to use, and generally available in any drugstore or pharmacy.

  • Adhesive strips (Band-Aids) in assorted sizes

  • Adhesive tape, 2.5 cm (1 inch ) wide

  • Butterfly bandages

  • Sterile gauze pads, 5 cm ( 2 inches ) square

  • Elastic ("Ace") bandage, 7.5 cm (3 inches) wide

  • Roll of gauze bandage, 5 cm (2 inches) wide

  • Cotton balls

  • Safety pins


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Buy a thermometer with easy-to-read markings. Digital electronic thermometers are accurate and easy to read. Temperature strips are very convenient and safe but are not as accurate as mercury or electronic thermometers and should only be used to measure axillary (armpit) 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.

How to Take a Temperature

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A normal oral temperature ranges from 36.4° to 37.4°C (97.6° to 99.4°F) and for most people is 37°C (98.6°F). Temperature varies with time of day and other factors, so don't worry about minor changes.

Whenever a person feels hot or cold to your touch, it is a good idea to take and record his or her temperature. If you have to call your doctor during an illness, knowing your exact temperature will be very helpful.

There are 3 places where a ther-mometer can be placed to take a temperature:

All temperatures in this book are oral temperatures. If you take an axillary temperature, adjust it accordingly.

Oral thermometers are recom-mended for people age 6 and older.

Axillary temperatures are less accurate and are about 1 ° lower than oral temperatures.

How to Read a Thermometer

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To read a thermometer that does not have a digital readout:

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