12 Things Pharmacists Keep in Their Medicine Cabinet
Are you ready for the minor—and not-so-minor—home medical emergencies? Learn what pharmacists keep on hand.
Pain meds that you can count on
“Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are staples in our house,” explains Mary Bridgeman, PharmD, BCPS, BCGP, Clinical Associate Professor, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. She lives with her husband—also a pharmacist—and their two young children, ages 3 and 5.
Although these meds may be over the counter, Bridgeman cautions that people should still be wary for these reasons:
- Avoid ibuprofen if you have kidney problems or stomach ulcers
- Monitor acetaminophen usage as it can cause liver damage.
- Follow proper dosage for age and weight when administering to children.
- Be aware that adult products may not be suitable for children.
- Double-check with a doctor or pharmacist first if you have any questions.
Don’t feel the burn
Heartburn is a common complaint with easy remedies. Bridgeman recommends Tums or Rolaids: They contain calcium and can help alleviate that burning sensation. However, if you need faster relief she suggests a liquid like Mylanta or Equate, which contain the gas-relieving ingredient simethicone; your body can absorb liquids faster than a tablet.
If you have allergies, intranasal steroids like Flonase or Nasacort are Bridgeman’s go-to meds. “They’re shown to have fewer adverse side effects compared with an oral antihistamine or other products for allergies; selecting the best allergy-relief medication is, of course, based on the patient and the symptoms; consulting with a doctor or pharmacist can help guide in the decision-making process,” she says. Learn the reasons your pharmacist knows more about your health than your doctor.
Stifle that cough
The type of cough you have will determine how you should treat it, says Bridgeman. “Cough medicines containing guaifenesin can be used to help bring up mucous and loosen phlegm,” explains Bridgeman. “Medicines containing dextromethorphan are best for a dry, non-productive cough to help suppress the cough reflex.” Some options include Robitussin and Nyquil.
First aid to the rescue
“Alcohol, triple-antibiotic ointment, Band-Aids, and topical anti-itch creams containing hydrocortisone are must-haves for those minor cuts, scrapes, and bites that happen periodically,” notes Bridgeman. “If you’re looking to stock a medicine cabinet with the essentials, these are four types of products I would not omit.”
And take note, says Bridgeman: Unlike tablet and pill medications, these basic first aid supplies are the only ones you should store in your bathroom medicine cabinet. “Temperature swings and humidity can influence the integrity of tablets and pill. They are best kept in a cool, dry place out of the reach of children; a kitchen cabinet works well,” she says. Find out the secrets your pharmacist isn’t telling you.
Banish belly troubles
Well-known for its familiar pink color, Pepto-Bismol can alleviate a variety of stomach ailments—keep it at the ready. It’s not meant for children younger than age 16, though; if your kids have diarrhea, use Pedialyte to replace fluids and nutrients while you wait for their tummy time to settle.
“Although many people with diarrhea might reach for an electrolyte-containing sports drink, these contain sugar and carbohydrates that can actually exacerbate diarrhea by causing an osmotic effect which draws fluid into the intestines,” warns Bridgeman. “Oral rehydration solutions contain the electrolytes without the extra sugar, which makes them desirable for preventing dehydration.”
Can’t stop sniffling
You don’t have to suffer from a runny nose and clogged sinuses, thanks to all the congestion-relieving medicines on the market. But Bridgeman likes starting with an all-natural option: “Keep intranasal saline on-hand, a salt solution that can alleviate nasal congestion and is virtually free of systemic side effects,” she says. She also likes the saline rinse for nasal allergy symptoms, as well.
Bridgeman is also a fan of nasal strips, like Breathe Right, that can physically open up nasal passages and provide relief from congestion, without drugs.
Say yes to supplements?
There are tons of vitamins on the market. Before spending your hard-earned cash, consult with your doctor about your potential needs. Marianne Corso, RPh at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, recommends taking B Complex and vitamin D each day. “B Complex is a mix of both vitamins B and C,” she explains. “For vitamin D, I take D3 in 5000 units, and I feel both are good replacements for a multi-vitamin.” These are the vitamins and supplements nutritionists never take (so you shouldn’t either).
Feeling run down
If you feel like a bug’s coming on, consider popping some Airborne to be safe. “I like having Airborne at the ready,” says Corso. “It’s good to take if you start to feel a little run down or feel like you are coming down with a cold. It’s a vitamin boost.”
Don’t scratch that itch
When fungal infections like athlete’s foot, jock itch, ringworm, and vaginal yeast infections have you at your wits end, be ready: “There are a number of different formulations (powders, creams, sprays) that contain anti-fungal medications that can be used for treating these conditions if they arise,” explains Bridgeman.
For athlete’s foot, you could try Lotrimin; for vaginal yeast infections, consider Monistat. Important: Be sure to you complete the total time for treatment that’s indicated on the product’s packaging, or your infection will come roaring back.
Too much fun in the sun
Were you having such a good time at the beach, pool, or baseball game that you forgot to reapply your sunscreen? Douse yourself with a product containing aloe vera to help relieve topical symptoms. However, if you have a particularly bad burn, Bridgeman recommends getting a preparation that contains lidocaine—Solarcaine, for example—to get an additive cooling effect. Learn which sunscreens dermatologists use themselves.
Tools of the trade
Putting your lips to your son or daughter’s forehead might be a mother’s trick for telling if her child has a fever, but a more accurate tool is the trusty thermometer. The newer digital models are inexpensive and reliable. This 10-second model from Adoric Life is well reviewed.
Tweezers can come in handy too—beyond plucking eyebrows. You can tackle splinters and ticks with a good pair. And make sure you keep a complete first aid kit around the house. Next, learn which unexpected items you should always have in your first aid kit.
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