YOUR HOME PHARMACY
Medicines to have available at home
(the recommended medicines
(generics are usually effective and less expensive)
Pain and fever:
Acetaminophen (Tylenol & others)
is effective and generally safe in all age groups - as long as it is not
overdosed. Read the dosing carefully, potentially fatal poisoning can occur
with minimal overdoses. Beware of poisoning by unintentionally taking a
combination of acetaminophen with over-the counter medicines that have
acetaminophen as an ingredient. Caffeine (found in coffee, chocolate, many
teas and soft drinks) can make acetaminophen more effective as a pain medicine.
Long acting (do not confuse with "extra-strength") acetaminophen
is particularly useful for early morning arthritis pain. NSAIDS (such as
Advil and aspirin) are also effective, but far more dangerous - especially
as a combination. A study in 1991, published in the New England Journal
of Medicine, showed that acetaminophen is as effective in controlling arthritis
pain as the more dangerous NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
Anti-inflammatory (and menstrual cramps):
Ibuprofen (Advil and others) is very effective for reducing or preventing inflammation. Ibuprofen is by far the safest, and the only one you should have at home - despite the TV commercial claims. Over 40,000 hospitalizations and 3000 deaths per year are the direct result of intestinal bleeding caused by this class of medicines (NSAIDS), although ibuprofen is clearly the safest. Ibuprofen is good for menstrual cramps, although prescription medicine is available for more severe cases. Aspirin is used primarily as a preventive medicine, and absolutely must not be given to children. It can prevent sunburns, and may be worth taking if your risks are small enough to warrant this benefit.
Heartburn & mouth sores:
Antacids (Tums <calcium carbonate> tablets, Riopan liquid) are very effective at eliminating heartburn. Medicines to prevent/reduce acid production are mostly now over the counter - beware of taking antacids with them because the antacids can prevent absorption. There is little difference between them, although Tagamet (cimetidine) is more dangerous - particularly because of drug interactions. Although they all work, usually requiring 1-4 pills at a time twice a day, Iíve had the most success with Axid. Mouth and gum sores frequently heal more quickly when treated with liquid antacids. Many antacids contain aluminum, and until the aluminum/Alzheimerís disease controversy is settled, itís probably wise to avoid aluminum intake. Heartburn or sores that are severe or persist need medical attention.
Sore throat / common cold:
Zinc lozenges have been shown to reduce the common coldís length and severity by half.
Allergic reactions & rashes:
Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is the pill of choice for allergic reactions and rashes, but it can cause drowsiness, dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, and difficulty urinating. Topical treatments such as hydrocortisone cream and Benadryl (diphenhydramine cream) can be very helpful, as can" oatmeal baths." Try to avoid creams with pain relieving (and allergy causing) medicines such as lidocaine.
Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and dextromethorphan ("DM" - found in many products) are safe and usually effective, but can cause drowsiness and the symptoms listed in the above paragraph. Prescription medicine is also available.
Imodium, Diasorb, and Pepto-Bismol are all safe and effective with minimal or no side effects.
Fleets orange and green enemas are very effective, and rarely cause a problem. Dulcolax suppositories and most every laxative are usually effective, but can cause great discomfort. Fleets phosphasoda (3 tablespoons one night, repeat in the morning) is the most effective laxative. All laxatives and bowel stimulants are potentially addicting, can worsen an underlying illness, and are for occasional use - not regular use.
Polysporin is the only one to use unless an allergy exists.
Nausea and seasickness:
Dramamine (demenhydrinate) and ginger pills (made from the food ginger) are equally effective in pill form. Prescription suppositories, such as Tigan, can be kept in the refrigerator for emergencies. Nausea and vomiting can be a sign of serious illness.
If children are in your home, even for just a short visit, the prescription medicine Ipecac to cause vomiting if needed. Before inducing vomiting, call the poison control center at 1-800-282-3171 for advice.
To prevent accidental poisonings, most prescription medicines should be thrown away when they are not needed. Old antibiotics used improperly can cause severe illnesses, and the antibiotic tetracycline becomes poisonous over time.