Ten Essential OTC Medications to Stockpile

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Are over-the-counter
(OTC)
drugs really worth stockpiling? As a family physician my answer
is a resounding yes. Most of the following were actually prescription
medications when first released. (In higher dosages, several still
are.) Although other OTC drugs are worth considering, these ten
have been selected due to their ready availability, affordability,
safety in both adults and children, and multi-use potential. Used
alone or in combination, they can effectively treat dozens of conditions
including: headache, fever, sore throats, ear ache, menstrual cramps,
heartburn, arthritis, ulcers, diarrhea, allergies, hives, congestion,
dizziness, mild anxiety, nausea, vomiting, poison ivy, athlete’s
foot, ringworm, eczema, insomnia, backache, gout, diaper rash, yeast
infections, and many more common illnesses.

1. Ibuprofen
(Motrin, Advil) – Among the OTC anti-inflammatory medications,
ibuprofen is probably the most versatile. Primarily indicated for
pain and inflammation, it may also be used to relieve headaches,
earaches, sore throats, sinus pain, stiff neck, muscle strains,
menstrual cramps, arthritis including gout, and back pain. It is
also effective at reducing fever and is generally safe for use in
children. It is not advisable for most stomach-related pain, although
may decrease the pain of kidney stones, kidney infections, and possibly
bladder infections. The most common side effect is stomach irritation
or heartburn. When combined with acetaminophen it is nearly as effective
as codeine, tramadol, or hydrocodone in relieving more severe pain.

2. Acetaminophen
(Tylenol) – Acetaminophen is the only OTC pain-reliever that is
not an anti-inflammatory drug. It will not irritate the stomach
like ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen. It is useful for the same
conditions as ibuprofen, though effectiveness varies according to
patient. As mentioned above, it may be combined with ibuprofen in
full doses for more severe pain. Side effects are very few, though
in high dose, especially when combined with alcohol, it can lead
to liver failure. It is available in several pediatric dosages,
both for pain relief and fever reduction.

3. Diphenhydramine
(Benadryl) – An inexpensive antihistamine, diphenhydramine
is primarily used for drainage due to respiratory infections and
nasal allergies, in both adults and children. It is also indicated
for hives and itching, including itchy rashes such as poison ivy.
Although not all patients become drowsy when using diphenhydramine,
many do so, making this medication useful for insomnia as well.
Some people find the drug relieves nausea or mild anxiety.

4. Loperamide
(Imodium) – The most effective OTC medication for diarrhea is loperamide,
which is available both as tablet form and liquid for children.
It is often useful for relieving intestinal cramping.

5. Pseudoephedrine
(Sudafed) – Pseudoephedrine is effective at relieving congestion
of both the upper and lower respiratory tract due to most common
causes including infection, allergy, chemical irritation, and mild
asthma or bronchitis. It frequently has a stimulatory effect, similar
to caffeine. The most common side effects are those resembling a
burst of adrenaline: rapid heart rate, palpitations, and increased
blood pressure. Years ago this drug was used in young children,
even babies, though now most pediatricians do not advise it in patients
younger than about six years old.

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December
14, 2010

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