Creating the Mother of All Efficient Med Collections in Your First Aid Kid
Frank Nielson is a retired medical researcher who now spends his days writing. Through this writing, he is keen on helping consumers find the best medical supplies at an affordable price. When not stationed behind his well-worn keyboard, Frank loves spending time with his grandchildren and vows that someday he will tie the perfect fly.
Everything in life requires balance. The balance that we’re concerned with here is the one every modern society has to strike between effective relief of pain and discomfort from medicines anyone can buy and not providing easy access to drugs that are too powerful or dangerous. Convenient as it would be sometimes- allowing over the counter (OTC) opiate painkillers would prove an abuse nightmare and OTC antibiotics would no doubt be overused, superbugs flourishing. As importantly, symptoms that are severe enough to require strong or dangerous drugs are very often worth checking out with a doctor.
However, should some calamity, catastrophe or collapse render professional medical care unavailable, including pharmacies, having a first aid kit well stocked with the appropriate meds is going to become very important. Keep in mind, every medical kit should be arranged with the arranger and their family’s particular needs in mind. If someone has asthma, stock inhalers. If someone’s prone to hay fever, be sure you know what their preferred allergy med is before you buy it in bulk, etc. There are a few things that everyone should stock, however.
The generic for Tylenol, acetaminophen is a great all-purpose OTC painkiller. Keep in mind that it can be tough on the liver when taken in high doses, so the recommended dosing schedule should be conformed to.
Technically it’s “acetylsalicylic acid” (ASA), but the analgesic commonly known as aspirin is an effective pain reliever- something that’s been known for thousands of years. Cultures that would have been considered ancient by citizens of the ancient Roman Empire were using bark containing salicin, aspirin’s base chemical, for its medicinal effectiveness. Aspirin is also a blood thinner- great for use by older people, those with conditions eased by anticoagulants and those at a risk for coronary disease. Both the white willow and aspen tree have bark rich in salicin and can be boiled in water for a pain-relieving tea if necessary.
Like aspirin, but not acetaminophen, ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID), making it well-suited for any pain involving inflammation. It’s also a good fever reducer and can be used more safely by kids with a fever than aspirin can. While acetaminophen can be a bit hard on the liver, ibuprofen can be rough on the stomach. However, your liver and renal system can handle it in higher doses, like 800 mgs every 6-8 hours (although I’ve had docs tell me off the record they feel comfortable taking more). If your gut is good with it, acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be taken together.
Naproxen is better known as Aleve and I include it here in case you prefer it to one of the other painkillers. If you have no real preference, it’s not necessary to go with all four of those listed.
There is a ground leaf powder called ‘Kratom’ that’s sold in head shops, smoke shops and over the internet. It’s legal and is purportedly an effective painkiller, and though widely used it remains relatively officially untested and therefore you may want to avoid it. Kava Kava is likewise a relaxant and apparent painkiller popular with the natural supplement/herbal medicine crowd but less well studied than traditional medicines. They’re also both used as mild inebriants and should be avoided if you need a clear head.
Hydrocortisone creams are great for the relief of itching, minor irritation, inflammation and rashes. One of those things you’ll really thank yourself for purchasing if you ever need it.
The soothing relief provided by aloe vera preparations for any number of minor dermal afflictions is well known. I happen to prefer the gel myself, and although it’s certainly not mobile, having an easy-to-grow aloe plant around has proved a boon to me on several occasions.
As great as aloe is, for more serious burns, having a burn gel around can provide a huge measure of relief.
Gastrointestinal (GI) Problems
Bismuth Subsalicylate and Calcium Carbonate
Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) and the calcium carbonate (Tums, Maalox) have helped me take the edge off a few touchy stomach situations I’ve encountered. They and effervescent antacids (Alka-Seltzer) work well for immediate relief from mild GI complaints.
Cimetidine, Famotidine, Omeprazole and Ranitidine
While the fast-acting antacids are good at what they do, having a longer term acid-reducing, stomach-soothing solution like famotidine (Pepcid), cimetidine (Tagamet), omeprazole (Prilosec) or ranitidine (Zantac) is a good idea. Personally, I prefer omeprazole but that’s because it works best with me. If you have GI issues you may already know which is your favorite.
Laxatives and Stool Softeners
If you’ve ever been really constipated you’re aware of how painful and debilitating that sort of blockage can be (extreme constipation resulting in intestinal blockage can ever be deadly). The gentlest laxatives are the “bulk-forming” agents like psyllium husk as a soluable fiber (Metamucil) or methylcellulose (Citrucel). Those can actually be taken all the time to ensure regularity. More powerful measures like stimulant laxatives (Ex-Lax), glycerin suppositories or saline enemas should be considered as inclusions if you’re prone to stoppage. Docusate, a stool softener, is also very good at its job.
Diarrhea is actually widely believed to kill more people on the planet than any other symptom of illness and has been responsible for millions and millions of deaths. It can be dangerously dehydrating (and obviously uncomfortable) very quickly. Always include some loperamide (Immodium). Though it’s not well known, loperamide is actually an opiate, albeit one that has no euphoric effects. Despite that, if you are stricken with pain and loose stool, loperamide can actually help both.
Cold and Flu
Stock a cough syrup, pill or powder containing dextromethorphan (DXM)- consider getting both day and nighttime preparations. It’s an effective cough suppressant and can aid sleep when ill. Choosing a DXM preparation with alcohol (NyQuil) or without is a matter of preference.
Commonly known as an “EpiPen”, this little guy will become the best OTC purchase you ever made if you or a family member goes into allergic anaphylactic shock from contact with a severe allergen. Good to have on hand because allergies can develop over time or make themselves known suddenly (like a bee sting).
You’ll have to ask the pharmacist for pseudoephedrine… do so. It’s my opinion (and that of much of the medical community) that pseudoephedrine is a more effective decongestant than phenylephrine, the chemical used in its place. As it’s also a mild stimulant, so if you’re ever in a situation that requires you staying awake through the night or something like that, they’re handy to have around.
Great for allergic reactions less severe than those requiring an EpiPen, diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is also a mild depressant. Along with clearing up some of that hay fever sniffling or minor allergic swelling, “diphens” can make you a little drowsy, meaning they’re good sleep aids. (Next time you’re at the store, and if you’re not already aware compare the prices and ingredients of the generic Benadryl with the generic sleeping pills.) For that reason, they’re also effective at mild anxiety relief.
Check with discount medical supply outlets (brick and mortar or online) for… discounted medical supplies, and bulk stores like Costco for… bulk supplies. Below are a couple sites that offer solid first aid supply lists. Always be prepared and good luck!