I recently watched the Netflix series, Tidying Up, with my children. Watching this show was an eye opener – I needed to get many areas of the house under control and more organized. As a pharmacist, I think it is very important to create an organized area for your as-needed pharmacy/medical items so that you can be prepared for emergencies. This would be in addition to your daily regimen of prescribed medications as well as any over the counter (OTC) medications/supplements recommended by your doctor.
Where to Keep Your Meds:
Generally, medications should be stored at room temperature unless specified otherwise, away from heat and moisture. Although a bathroom cabinet seems like the perfect spot to place your medications, it is not a good place due to heat and moisture from the shower. It is also important to keep all medications out of the reach of children, and have the number for Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) accessible at all times. In our house, I keep the miscellaneous medications on a high shelf in a bin in the office closet, away from extreme temperatures.
Are They Still Good?
Expiration dates should be checked periodically, and expired medicines should be removed. The FDA (https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm186187.htm) website is a great reference for this.
Which Medicines Should You Have on Hand to Be Prepared?
I consulted with 19,000 of my closest pharmacist friends to compile a list of medications and supplies that are important to keep at home for various reasons. As most of these medications are for adults, always consult your child’s pediatrician for recommendations and advice on medications for your little one.
Acetaminopen (Tylenol) for pain/fever
Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) for pain, inflammation, and/or fever
When giving acetaminophen or ibuprofen to children, always ask the pediatrician or pharmacist for the appropriate dose for each child, and double and triple check your measuring!
Excedrin for an occasional headache (if you are taking this more than occasionally, consult with a doctor because OTC pain medications can lead to rebound headaches https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/medication-overuse-headache/symptoms-causes/syc-20377083)
Non-enteric coated aspirin (if you have chest pain and call 911, the dispatcher may instruct you to chew a 325 mg aspirin tablet that is NOT enteric coated)
Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) – great for allergies/mild allergic reactions but will cause drowsiness
Loratadine (Claritin), or your preferred non-drowsy allergy medication
OTC allergy eye drops such as Zaditor
OTC nasal spray such as Flonase
Saline spray for moisturizing dry nasal passages
Lubricant eye drops
Sterile eye wash
Loperamide (Imodium) for diarrhea
Tums, ranitidine (Zantac), esomeprazole (Nexium), or your favorite heartburn relief
Cola Syrup/Emetrol – excellent for nausea
Pedialyte – to prevent dehydration from vomiting
Cough & Cold:
These medications come with many caveats – there are warnings on various medications due to high blood pressure, glaucoma, drug interactions, etc. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist to be sure the cough/cold medication you choose is compatible with your medical conditions and medications. Be prepared to check with the pediatrician, too, before giving any cold medicine to a young child. Many are ineffective and some are actually dangerous.
Combination product as recommended by doctor or pharmacist when considering the above factors, also consider daytime/nighttime
Probiotics (to take when you are on antibiotics to prevent yeast infections)
Guaifenesin in pill or liquid form to break up a cough
Dextromethorphan in pill or liquid to suppress a cough
Vicks VapoRub (an old wives’ tale, but I swear by putting this on the soles of my daughter’s feet and covering with socks overnight to help a cough)
Humidifier or Vaporizer (What is the difference? Both add moisture to the air: a vaporizer heats water until it turns into hot steam; a humidifier creates a cool mist. Either can help loosen congestion and ease cold symptoms, but it is safer to use a cool mist humidifier for children, due to risk of burn from boiling water with vaporizers)
Be prepared for accidents with plenty of bandages of various sizes, including butterfly bandages, and liquid bandage (Liquid bandage is also helpful for sealing cracks in fingertips that can be troublesome during cold weather)
Bacitracin or triple antibiotic ointment (Neosporin) – many prefer bacitracin because of a sensitivity to Neosporin
Heating pads/portable heat such as ThermaCare
Fine-tipped tweezers for tick removal
Oral syringes or measuring cups to accurately measure liquid medications – kitchen teaspoons are not accurate
When summer is approaching, add plenty of sunscreen, lip balm with sunscreen, and aloe vera to soothe burns.
No need to have absolutely everything on this list – pick those that apply to you or you feel like you need. Although there are 24-hour pharmacies all over, when you are feeling crummy, the last thing you want to do is go out for one of these items.
Information in this article is intended to be general advice. For personalized advice, consult your doctor or pharmacist.