Basics For Your Medicine Cabinet

While many drugs should be purchased only as the need for them arises, certain medications, usually those used for common minor ailments, should be kept on hand.

Analgesics. Some kind of analgesic, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen, should be on hand for relieving headaches, minor muscle aches, cramps, and other types pain.

Antacids. It is wise to have an antacid in the house to treat indigestion or heartburn. Since the ingredients of different antacids vary -- for example, some products have a high salt content -- be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which one would best suit your needs.

Allergy and Cold Medications. A number of these drugs contain antihistamines; others have decongestants that can ease nasal stuffiness. Before taking these medications, read the warning labels carefully. Many cause drowsiness and should not be used when driving or operating machinery. Some contain ingredients that interact with other medications or that can worsen certain medical conditions, especially high blood pressure, glaucoma, diabetes, and urinary tract problems. If you have doubts, check with your doctor or pharmacist before making the purchase to make sure that the product is safe for you to use.

Anti-Pruritics. Calamine lotion is usually all that is needed to alleviate a bout of itching due to mosquito bites or poison ivy. In more severe cases, use of an over-the-counter low-dose corticosteroid cream or ointment may be more effective.

Anti-Diarrheals. For occasional episodes of diarrhea, an anti-diarrheal medication is good to have on hand. You can ask your doctor or pharmacist to recommend the best available over-the-counter remedy. If an episode persists for more than a few days, make an appointment for a checkup with your physician.

Antiseptics. Always keep a product such as rubbing alcohol or 3 percent hydrogen peroxide with your medical supplies to use as a cleanser for minor scrapes and cuts. Application of an antiseptic to a small wound after it has been washed with soap and water helps to prevent infection.

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