Everything You Need in Your Medicine Cabinet

February 27, 2018

Dr. Nancy Simpkins creates the checklist.

From Nancy: When you wake up in the middle of the night with a headache, fever or other pain, do you have what you need in your medicine cabinet? Make your life easier by having all the essentials on hand—before you end up with that excruciating migraine and find yourself rushing to the nearest 24-hour pharmacy.

Pain Relievers

Advil (ibuprofen) is a NSAID, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, that is used to treat headaches, fever and pain. Since it’s metabolized in the kidney and has certain stomach side effects, avoid taking it if you have kidney disease or an active ulcer in your stomach. If you don’t have either condition or allergies to the medication, keeping Advil in your medicine cabinet is a good idea.

Tylenol (acetaminophen) works directly on the fever or pain cells and is metabolized in the liver. If you don’t have liver disease, Tylenol is a safe medication for you.

How do you decide which one to take? If you are otherwise healthy, keep both at home and when a headache, fever or pain strikes, try one to see the results.

Remember to take the proper dosage. People may think that if a little is good then a lot is better, but that’s not true and can be unsafe. Follow the directions on the bottle or check with your doctor.

Stomach Meds

Stock Tums (antacids) in your house for upset stomach issues like acid reflux, indigestion and mild burning. Keep an anti-diarrheal med such as Imodium A-D in your cabinet to avoid spending the night in the bathroom in case you overeat or eat the wrong food. If you require more than one to two doses, contact your doctor as it might be more serious than a food-related cause.

Cold and Cough

Buy a decongestant for when you have a “stuffed head.” My preference is Sudafed(pseudoephedrine) as it’s best for opening up a sinus headache due to direct action on headache receptors. This drug is over-the-counter (no prescription needed), but is controlled by pharmacists and must be signed for behind the pharmacy counter. Take it early in the day since one of the side effects can be insomnia.

At bedtime, the key is to dry up the “drip” and any medication with antihistamine in it will do the trick. I personally like Nyquil as it allows you to sleep all night (which is what you need when you are sick).  While all antihistamines are mildly sedating, the diphenhydramine antihistamine and the small percentage of alcohol in this product are particularly sedating and allow for good sleep when trying to recover from an illness.

Eye Drops

Have some eye drops around in case you have a makeup mishap or any other eye irritation. Over-the-counter drops like Opcon-A by Bausch and Lomb soothe irritated eyes and can help itchy spring allergy eyes, too.

Allergy Medication

Speaking of allergies, it’s always good to have Benadryl 25 mg tablets in your house in case you develop an unexpected rash, itch or allergy.

Cold Sore Treatment

You know that feeling when you’re getting ready to go to sleep and you see a cold sore appear on your lip? Keep Abreva cream or doctor-prescribed antiviral meds in your medicine cabinet because the sooner you treat the sore, the better the chance of stopping it before it worsens.

What about people who want to keep an antibiotic, just in case?

I don’t agree with this practice as it’s difficult for most people to distinguish a viral infection from a bacterial infection and antibiotics only work against bacteria. It would lead to overuse of antibiotics and future antibiotic resistance.

Speak to your doctor about your own personal health needs and you can add to the above list.

For more from Dr. Nancy Simpkins, read her recent columns on our site or visit her online at NancySimpkinsMD.com.