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8 things you need in your medicine cabinet

Which essentials should you have in your medicine cabinet at home? Charmille Hare, D.O., a family medicine physician at Piedmont, shares the key products everyone should keep on hand in case of a minor illness or injury.

For all of these medications, take as directed by the package labels and see your physician if you are dealing with a chronic condition (like migraines or heartburn) or if you don’t find relief after several days of home treatment.

1. Pain reliever

Whether you have a headache, menstrual cramps or a pulled muscle, non-prescription pain relievers can come in handy. There are three main categories of pain medication, all of which reduce fever and relieve pain, explains Dr. Hare. You may find one particular variety works best for your needs. The most common over-the-counter pain relievers include:

  • Aspirin. Aspirin can cause stomach irritation in some people.
  • Anti-inflammatories, like ibuprofen and naproxen (Aleve).
  • Acetaminophen, like Tylenol. Too much can affect the liver.

Again, following package directions is crucial, because taking too much of these medications long-term can lead to complications such as stomach irritation and even liver failure.

2. Cough medicine

“For coughs, you can use anything over-the-counter and it will work pretty well,” says Dr. Hare.

If you have a productive cough (i.e., you have mucus in your chest), look for a product with the expectorant guaifenesin, which will help loosen the secretions.

“Then you can actually cough up the mucus you have,” she explains.  

3. Cold medicine

“For colds, over-the-counter medications work very well,” says Dr. Hare.

Decongestants help with congestion associated with the common cold or a virus, while other ingredients help relieve pain and even promote a better night’s sleep.

4. Antihistamines

For allergies, antihistamines can be your best friend. While there are many varieties from which to choose, Dr. Hare recommends paying close attention to the words “non-drowsy.” For daytime use, non-drowsy medication is your best bet, but if your allergies are keeping you from a good night’s rest, a sleep-promoting medication (such as Benadryl) can be beneficial.

5. Digestive aids

For digestive issues, there are three types of at-home medications you can use:

  • Tums or Rolaids for mild, food-related heartburn. While they do not provide long-term relief, these quick-release formulas tame symptoms quickly.
  • Mylanta or Maalox are helpful for those who have heartburn on a regular basis and are longer-lasting than fast-release chewables like Tums.
  • Zantac or Prevacid for long-acting relief. These are recommended for those who suffer from daily heartburn.

If you suffer from chronic heartburn, see your physician. He or she may recommend a regimen of the medications listed above and/or other therapies, particularly if you have an underlying condition causing your symptoms.

6. Ointments and creams

“For itching, burning or irritation of the skin, there are several categories of topical medications you can use,” says Dr. Hare. They include:

  • Calamine lotion, an “old favorite” that helps relieve itching and irritation of the skin.
  • Topical Benadryl cream if calamine lotion doesn’t alleviate symptoms. This cream blocks histamine, which is a common culprit behind skin itching and irritation.
  • Topical steroids, if the previous two creams don’t provide relief. The most common over-the-counter topical steroid is cortisone, which is a low-potency steroid that works very well for itching.

7. Infection prevention

Dr. Hare recommends keeping hydrogen peroxide and an antibiotic ointment on hand for minor cuts and scrapes.

8. Minor burn remedies

For minor burns, she recommends a topical antibiotic, like Neosporin, to prevent infection.

“It’s important to have these things on hand because you never know what could happen,” says Dr. Hare. “Emergencies and illnesses happen all the time and some things don’t require you to rush to a doctor.”

Dr. Hare practices at Piedmont Physicians Group Locust Grove, located at 5040 Bill Gardner Parkway, Suite 310, Locust Grove, GA 30248. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Hare or one of our other primary care providers. Save time, book online.

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