Thursday, May 2, 2024

Guest Post: a Small OTC Pharmacy List

by George Groot

George is a member of our Facebook Group and has written for us before.

Every disaster prep list usually includes the words “30 days’ (or more) worth of medication.” If you are on medication, this is really great advice, but there are also a bunch of things you can purchase without a prescription that will provide you with treatment options  from a headache to a laceration, and those are good to have on hand for when stores aren’t open. This list isn’t all encompassing, and it’s meant to be generic so that you can decide, “Yeah, I need that, but not that” and customize it to your situation.

“For the Inside of You” List
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). These are the “fever reducing” and “general aches and pains” medications. I like generic acetaminophen and naproxen, but my wife finds that ibuprofen works very well for her. The generic bottles of 100 pills or more should be sufficient for a short term disaster, and I recommend one each acetaminophen, naproxen, aspirin, and ibuprofen. 
  • Antihistamines. Due to the war on some drugs, the “good stuff” is still available without a prescription, but you’ll actually have to talk to a pharmacy tech and show your ID to make the purchase. The prices for even generics are pretty high, but pseudoephedrine is still the “king of clearing things up” (especially hives) for me when diphenhydramine doesn’t cut it.  I would say that two 24 packs of pseudoephedrine pills is a good start for a household that doesn’t have environmental allergies, and one large bottle of diphenhydramine for mild “seasonal allergies”. People with chronic allergies will need a 30 day supply of their normal medication.
  • Laxatives. An interruption to your normal diet can cause a person to become constipated. There are multiple options, and if you don’t want to keep laxative pills on hand, you can make a “saline laxative” out of potable water and Epsom salts.
  • The “Anti-Laxative” Loperamide (aka generic Imodium) This helps avoid dehydration when illness causes diarrhea. 
  • Vitamins. A generic multi-vitamin is cheap insurance; I use Walmart’s Equate brand. You’ll want one pill per person per day times the number of days you are prepping; for a 4 person family working on a month, that’s 124 pills. Generally a short term disaster doesn’t lead to any sort of vitamin or mineral deficiency, but it is pretty cheap insurance. If someone in your house has a specific supplement they need to take regularly (iron, magnesium, etc.) add that in as well.
  • Caffeine can really help with headaches/migraines, which is why caffeine is an ingredient in so many OTC headache pill and powder formulas. A bottle of generic “alertness pills” is cheap insurance in case someone needs caffeine to deal with a migraine, and for some reason don’t have caffeinated beverage handy.
  • Rehydration salts. These can be individual packets of sports drink mix, medical grade salt mixes, or a mix of salts in pill form. It doesn’t matter too much which you choose, but you will want some on hand to assist anyone who needs to rehydrate. This can get spendy if you buy individual packets of name brand sports drink, but electrolyte tablets seem to be fairly affordable right now on Amazon.

“For the Outside of You” List
  • Sterilizing Fluids. You’ll want 90% rubbing alcohol on hand, and a bottle of povidone iodine or prep pads is also a good idea.
  • Antibiotic Ointment. A generic “triple antibiotic ointment” is cheap insurance, so I recommend two tubes. 
  • Super Glue. When you really, really need to hold skin together right now, this is good stuff to have on hand. It will harden in the container, so make sure you rotate in new stock every year. Of all the recommendations, super glue probably has the shortest useable shelf life.
  • Calamine lotion and hydrocortisone cream. This is for treating rashes, itches, and mild allergic reactions to plants on the skin. 
  • Anti-fungal cream. A significant number of Americans have an active foot fungus infection at any given time. Generally this is not a problem, but you don’t want it to spread to others during a disaster.
  • Petroleum Jelly. Really useful for dry, cracking skin, and it also turns a cotton ball into a great fire starter.
  • Sports Tape. This is different than medical tape, as it is designed to support joints. I use the cheap three dollar generic stuff for taping my fingers for Brazilian Jiujutsu the same way rock climbers tap their fingers for that sport. This also serves as a good blister cover, and can wrap around bandages for added protection. It doesn’t last forever, but is pretty cheap to have on hand.

“Preventive Medicine” List
In the event that “normal services are disrupted” you want to be able to keep your area as clean as possible, preventing rodents and insects from invading your space. 
  • Insect repellent for your skin. Being munched on by bugs is pretty miserable, and this helps prevent insect-borne illnesses from spreading. In addition to the sprays and lotions for your skin, you can get candles/torches and electronic devices that help you keep your area temporarily free from the bloodsucking insects.
  • Lice shampoo/treatment kit. Do not get an “organic/natural” kit here, get the kind that has dimethicone, which interrupts the lice water metabolism and kills them that way.
  • Permethrin. This is an insect killer/repellent for your living area. You can get it highly concentrated for agricultural purposes, or in spray cans to kill bed bugs. Understand that this is a pretty serious chemical, and it needs to be handled accordingly. It can be seriously nasty stuff if you let it touch your skin, but I’ve found nothing better for treating fabrics. 
  • Sunscreen. Don’t make a bad situation worse by getting sunburned. 
Storage and Stock Rotation
Like most perishable things, “store in a cool, dry place” is the best advice for your medicinal preparations, but even medicinal items stored properly still have a shelf life.  If it is a dry item, like a pill or powder, that shelf life is much longer than the “use by” date on the packaging. If the product is “wet” in any way, such as a gel, adhesive tape, cream, or spray, you’ll see a much more noticeable degradation of the product the further beyond the “use by” date on the packaging. If the product is a liquid, such as hydrogen peroxide, you’ll want to replace it regularly for the same reason you rotate your stock of laundry bleach (it breaks down and loses its oxidative properties over time).

If you have access to the internet you can check for drug interactions here, and if you are preparing to survive offline the “Where There Is No Doctor” series comes highly rated, and the newest editions are updated with additional medicinal information. 

While I don’t plan to start a village medical clinic, having a printed reference on hand is pretty cheap insurance for those things where I don’t have a clear idea on how to proceed.

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