Do you know how to treat this? Do you have the supplies at home to take care of someone you love if they suddenly look like this ?
Simple over-the-counter medications can treat many of life’s minor medical problems such as these unexplained hives.
Cynthia J. Koelker, MD, the author of the book Armageddon Medicine, is a great resource to teach us how to prepare for medical emergencies when standard medical care is unavailable. As you take time this month to clean out your medicine cabinet and stock it with fresh supplies, you may want to take into consideration some of her recommendations.
Begin with a well-stocked medicine cabinet. Dozens of medicines which were once by prescription only are now available over-the-counter and are readily affordable. Here’s a baker’s dozen to get you started:
1. Meclizine (Bonine, Dramamine) – for nausea, vomiting, and dizziness, but may also be useful for insomnia, anxiety, or runny nose
2. Loperamide (Imodium) – for diarrhea in adults and children (over age 2)
3. Ranitidine (Zantac) – primarily for heartburn and acid indigestion, but also useful for hives
5. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) – for itching, hives, runny nose, cough, insomnia, and possibly anxiety. Cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), and fexofenadine (Allegra) are also effective for cold symptoms and itching but are less likely to cause drowsiness
7. Bacitracin ointment – for minor skin infections and to prevent infection in damaged skin (This is what doctors and hospitals use.)
10. Aspirin – useful for the same problems as ibuprofen (but harder on the stomach) AND can also be used as a blood thinner to help prevent heart attacks and strokes (which ibuprofen does not)
11. Epinephrine for inhalation (Asthmanefrin) – the only OTC inhalation medication for asthma, also possibly useful for serious allergic reactions or angioedema (it would be wise to discuss this with your doctor before using)
12. Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, original formula that you must sign for) – most potent OTC medication for congestion, also somewhat useful for asthma and may prevent drowsiness
Note: although these medications are available over-the-counter, this does NOT mean they are free of side effects. The antihistamines in particular can cause dry mouth, urinary retention, even hallucinations, especially in the elderly. Ibuprofen can cause stomach ulcers and loperamide may cause serious constipation. Treat all these medicines with respect.
To manage chronic disease you need to begin with your own physician. Although your insurance will not pay for extra medicine for an unforeseen disaster, if you approach the problem systematically, you can gradually build up a supply of blood pressure, diabetic, heart, or other medication to last well into the future. If you are on expensive drugs, you may want to ask your physician to switch you to an inexpensive option, making stocking up more affordable.
You should also ask your doctor about over-the-counter alternatives. For example, if for some reason Celebrex would become unavailable, physicians would likely switch patients to older anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Although these are more likely to irritate the stomach (which is practically the only reason Celebrex is preferred), the “old” way of doing things was to prescribe an acid-lowering drug such as ranitidine or lansoprazole to go along with medications such as ibuprofen, in order to protect the stomach against the effects of the anti-inflammatory. As previously mentioned, all these medications are now available without a prescription. Even certain insulins can be obtained over the counter, and it may be possible to control your blood pressure using herbal preparations.
Doc Cindy provides us with a great list of over-the-counter medications that are easy to stock up on. Costco and Sam’s Club sell generic forms of many of these medications at unbelievably low prices. It makes a lot of sense to keep a fresh stock of these meds in your home where they are easily accessible for every day needs as well as emergencies. Take time this month to stock up before disaster strikes!
September’s goal is to spend 15 minutes going through all of your medications. Dispose of old medications and make a list of fresh medications to purchase. Spend $20 on medications your family may need everyday as well as in an emergency.