Medical emergencies are an unfortunate fact of life. Every day, people suffer from minor cuts and scrapes and major medical complications. Many of these more minor issues can be dealt with effectively at home with the right supplies but sometimes we are confronted with a more serious medical problem. In these cases, preparedness is key.
In these instances, we need to be prepared with the right medical supplies - including the best OTC medications to stockpile. Although many Preppers have high-quality first aid kits at home that are suitable for trauma, very few people are prepared to deal with medical emergencies or incidents that may require specialized medications.
Having the right medications available can be crucial during an emergency situation. Medication is one of the most overlooked prepper medical supplies, so we’ve created this how-to guide that explains why you need OTC emergency medicine, what kinds of OTC medication to have and how to find affordable OTC medication.
The need for emergency medicine
While definitive medical care at a hospital or doctor's office is always the best option for dealing with more serious emergencies, it can be inaccessible due to a large-scale disaster or the remoteness of your location.
Many medical emergencies require immediate treatment, so waiting for an ambulance to arrive isn’t always the best strategy. This is why it’s important to have a solid first aid kit at home including OTC medication that could be life saving.
Often times first aid kits only have trauma supplies. While these are important pieces of medical equipment, a 4x4” gauze pad isn’t going to be very helpful if someone is having an anaphylactic reaction.
Rather, we need to be sure that we have an adequate supply of emergency OTC medications to be able to deal with these non-trauma issues.
In long-term disaster situations, hospitals might be inaccessible or running low on supplies. If you have the right medications available at home or in your bug out bag, you won’t need to rely as heavily on a hospital for medical assistance. Rather, you’d be able to deal with many different medical ailments and emergencies from home.
Many Preppers tend to overlook the power of over the counter medications and opt for trying to stockpile prescription medicines instead. While there are some prescription medicines that would be invaluable in a medical emergency, they tend to be more expensive and more difficult to access than their OTC counterparts.
Additionally, OTC medicines can be incredibly effective in a variety of medical situations. Thus, we recommend focusing your efforts on ensuring that you have an adequate supply of the most important OTC medications in your stores.
What to have
While the need for a store of emergency medications is clear, many people struggle to figure out exactly what medicines they should have. To help you out, we've made this list of the 17 most important OTC medications you should have.
Anti-inflammatories and pain relief
1. Acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin)
Aspirin is one of the most versatile anti-inflammatories on the market. In addition to being an effective pain reliever, it is critically important in the at-home treatment of cardiac events. We recommend the baby aspirin tablets, which are chewable and faster-acting than the adult version.
2. Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Acetaminophen is a great anti-inflammatory which can also be used to relieve headaches and reduce fevers. Recent research also suggests that it is safe for people who are pregnant to take.
3. Ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin)
Ibuprofen is yet another anti-inflammatory that is particularly great for the treatment of joint pains, menstrual cramps, and headaches. However, it is not recommended for pregnant people.
4. Loperamide (Imodium)
Loperamide is incredibly effective at reducing the severity of diarrhea. While we often think of diarrhea as a nuisance, it can actually be a threat to life as it can cause severe dehydration. Loperamide can cause diarrhea to be less frequent or less severe, which can reduce fluid loss, too.
5. Bismuth sub-salicylate (Pepto-Bismol)
Pepto-Bismol is used to treat gastrointestinal issues such as heartburn, diarrhea, nausea, and indigestion.
6. Famotidine (Pepcid)
Famotidine is an effective heartburn medication because it reduces the amount of stomach acid that the body produces. This reduces one’s symptoms and pain due to heartburn, ulcers, or acid reflux.
7. Activated charcoal
While not strictly a gastrointestinal medication, activated charcoal is a substance that binds to poisons and toxins in the body to render them less effective. This allows the body to expel the poisons or toxins to prevent or reduce the effect of accidental poisonings or overdoses.
Allergies and allergic reactions
8. Hydrocortisone cream (Cortizone 10)
Hydrocortisone cream is a topical allergy medication which is used to relieve pain, itchiness, and swelling associated with rashes and other skin conditions. It can also be helpful in treating bug bites, eczema, and poison ivy or oak exposure.
9. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine. This means that it counteracts the processes that cause anaphylactic reactions (also known as allergic reactions) which can be life-threatening. When taken promptly after exposure to a substance that causes anaphylaxis, diphenhydramine can prevent or reduce the prevalence of hives and/or the swelling of the throat, which can be fatal. However, diphenhydramine causes drowsiness so caution is necessary before operating machinery or driving.
10. Loratadine (Claritin)
Loratadine is another allergy medication which can be used to treat hives and hay fever. It can be used for all-day allergy relief, too, as unlike diphenhydramine, it does not cause drowsiness.
11. Fexofenadine (Allegra)
Fexofenadine is similar to Loratadine as it is used to treat allergies. Some people find it to be more effective for their allergies than loratidine, so it is worth having both medications.
12. Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
Zyrtec is most commonly used to treat hay fever but can also be effective in treating other allergies.
Cold, cough, and flu
13. Cough suppressant (Mucinex, Robitussin, NyQuil, Theraflu, Vicks, and Dimetapp)
Cough suppressants are effective at reducing the frequency or severity of coughs, which can be painful or uncomfortable. There are many different cough suppressants available today, many of which are mixed with other medications. The active ingredient in most cough suppressants is dextromethorphan, so look out for it on whichever suppressant you choose to buy.
14. Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
Sudafed is a powerful decongestant that is used to treat the symptoms of colds, flus, and sinus infections. You can often find it mixed with other medications (such as cough suppressants) as part of a single ‘cold and flu’ medication.
Cuts, scrapes, and burns
15. Burl Gel (Water Jel)
Burn Gel is used to treat a variety of burns, including sunburns. It uses lidocaine as its main active ingredient, so it is effective at numbing the skin and tissue affected by the burn.
16. Clotting sponge or bandage (QuickClot)
QuickClot is used to stop bleeding associated with major trauma, particularly in the torso/abdomen or around major arteries. It can be used in addition to gauze to stop major bleeds as QuickClot contains a number of different clotting factors.
Neosporin is a brand name for an antibiotic cream that is often applied to cuts and scrapes. When applied correctly after cleaning a wound it can be used to prevent infections in skin wounds.
Finding affordable medicine
At this point, you might feel a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of acquiring all of these medications. In addition to being a hefty task, purchasing all of this medicine can be expensive.
Luckily, there are a number of ways to acquire this medication without spending your life savings.
The first tactic is to always buy the generic version of the medication whenever possible. There is no medical difference between the generic and name-brand version of a medication as the active ingredients (the stuff that actually works inside your body) stays the same.
Rather, the difference between a name brand and generic medication often comes down to packaging, or, in the case of liquid medicines, flavor availability. Thus, generic medications are the best option for saving money.
Second, we recommend purchasing medications in bulk. Instead of buying the travel-sized or individually wrapped packets of medicine, aim to buy larger quantities of the most highly used medications in this list (such as ibuprofen, aspirin, Neosporin, etc.). Larger containers of medicine tend to be cheaper per unit, so they give you a bigger bang for your buck.
Reliable medical information
Once you have all of this medication, however, you might not feel like you’re prepared to use it in an emergency. Thus, it’s important to have information about these medications readily available.
First and foremost, it's important to always have correct dosage information and directions with your medications. Generally, this is found on the bottle or box that the medicine came in, so if you haven't thrown this away, you're probably good.
We also recommend purchasing a medicine information book, like the one found here. A book like this provides reliable drug interation information which can be helpful when dealing with an emergency. Instead of trying to remember how many milligrams of aspirin someone should take, you can consult your book and know that you've handled the situation correctly. Plus, the book contains information that can help you decide what medication to administer in particular situations, which can be invaluable guidance in an emergency.
At the end of the day, it’s important to have the right tools to deal with any situation that comes your way. When it comes to medical emergencies, the best tool might be an OTC medication. Thus, it’s important to have an adequate supply of OTC medications at home and reliable information on how to use them.
Please consult a medical professional before taking any OTC medications.