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It’s easy to take the power of medicine for granted. We all grew up with the idea that you can just pop a pill and get rid of your cold and flu symptoms, but just a little over one hundred years ago this was completely unheard of. Back then, people just had to deal with their symptoms and hope they got better. If you find yourself in the middle of a long-term disaster and you didn’t stock up on OTC (over-the-counter) medications, you’ll soon find out how rough it was for them.
The list below is not a comprehensive list of all the medical supplies you should stockpile. Not even close. What you’ll find below are all the most popular OTC medications that you can take orally. If you’re looking for a complete list of medical supplies, check out this list.
The meds listed below should take care of all the most common ailments such as allergies, arthritis, congestion, constipation, cough, cramps, diarrhea, dizziness, fever, headache, heartburn, nausea, sore throat, runny nose, and vomiting. I included the generic names in parentheses along with links to their pages on drugs.com in case you want to learn more.
Before you say, “I hardly ever get sick, I’ll be fine,” keep in mind that during a major disaster you’ll be undergoing a lot of stress which will quickly weaken your immune system. If you get sick and are feeling miserable, you won’t be nearly as helpful to those who depend on you. Also, since many other people will be stressed out and possibly sick, you could use some of your medicine for barter.
But don’t just run to the store and start filling your cart with drugs. Stop and think about what you use most and least often. For example, I have a lot of antacids because I tend to get heartburn, but I only have a little bit of dramamine because I rarely get nauseous. Once you figure out which items you use most frequently, add them to your EDC kit, your bug out bag, and your regular first aid supplies.
It should also be noted that some of these items are slightly redundant. For example, Excedrin is just equal parts acetaminophen and aspirin, so you’ll have to decide whether to buy Excedrin or just make your own. Also, don’t forget to note the expiration dates of your medications. Although they’ll last a while beyond the expiration dates, they will lose their potency over time so you should keep track of what’s new and what’s old. Now on the the list:
2. Aleve (Naproxen) – Another anti-inflammatory drug. It works the same way as Advil (reducing hormones that cause inflammation) and treats the same symptoms. Some people think it’s more effective than Advil. Whichever one you choose to store is a matter of personal preference.
3. Bayer Aspirin (Aspirin) – Although it’s not quite as effective as the last two painkillers, one huge plus is its ability to help someone recover from a heart attack. It can also help prevent future heart attacks by thinning the blood. For that you would take baby aspirin, but talk to your doctor first as it can have negative side effects in some people.
4. Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) – This antihistamine is sort of a wonder drug. It treats all sorts of things including coughing, itching, rashes, runny nose, sneezing, and other allergy symptoms. It’s also great for helping people fall asleep.
5. Claritin (Loratadine) – This also treats allergy and cold symptoms like coughing and sneezing, but it doesn’t make you drowsy. Many people find it to be more effective than Benadryl. Again, it’s a matter of personal preference. Figure out which of the two you like better, or go ahead and store both.
6. Dayquil (Acetaminophen, Dextromethorphan, Phenylephrine) – My favorite thing for cold symptoms such as congestion, cough, headache, and sore throat. However, it won’t stop a runny nose. For that you’ll need an antihistamine such as Benadryl.
8. Dulcolax (Bisacodyl) – These cause bad stomach pain and a very unpleasant bowel movement, but that’s the whole idea. If you’re constipated, these will get you going again. Just make sure you stay close to the bathroom after you take it.
9. Excedrin (Acetaminophen, Aspirin, Caffeine) – I used to have a friend who got migraines on a regular basis and she swore by this. It’s equal parts aspirin and acetaminophen (250 mg each) and a little bit of caffeine.
10. Imodium (Loperamide) – Disasters can be stressful, and if you’re also eating food you don’t normally eat, you might become constipated (see Dulcolax above). Or you could end up with the opposite problem: diarrhea. For that you need Imodium. It’s important to take care of this quickly because you don’t want to get dehydrated.
12. Nyquil (Acetaminophen, Doxylamine, Dextromethorphan) – This does a good job relieving cold and flu symptoms. However, many people complain about having a “Nyquil hangover” the next day. It’s not as bad as an alcohol hangover, but you’ll feel very tired.
13. Pepto-Bismol (Bismuth subsalicylate) – This stuff is amazing. It can soothe almost any kind of stomach discomfort (diarrhea, heartburn, indigestion, nausea) by limiting digestive secretions and reducing inflammation.
14. Sudafed PE (Acetaminophen, Phenylephrine) – This is just like Dayquil minus the Dextromethorphan, which is a cough suppressant. If all you have is sinus pressure and pain, then this is what you need.
15. Tums (Calcium Carbonate) – If you’ve stocked up on lots of canned food, spaghetti sauce, crackers, and other acidic, high-sodium foods, then you have a recipe for frequent heartburn. Antacids can make a huge difference. They also treat calcium deficiencies.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and the information here is not meant to be medical advice. I’m just sharing my opinion. I encourage you to do your own research and talk to your doctor to make sure you’re not allergic to any of these medications and that they won’t interfere with any other medications you’re taking.