Stocking the Medicine Cabinet

Oh God, y’all, I think I’m gonna die. At the time I’m writing this, I’m on Day 4 of the world’s nastiest cold. I’ve gone through a whole box of tissues and a bag of cough drops, and I’m starting to lose my voice. I am uncomfortable and want nothing more than to crawl under my covers and marathon Buffy, Season 7 until my eyes fall out of my head. Or I fall asleep. Whichever comes first.

I’m pretty self-sufficient when I’m sick. After all, I’ve been living more or less on my own for the last 9 years, so I’ve learned how to cope. I still have to go to work, make sure I have clothes to wear, take care of my pet, feed myself, etc., and I have to do it entirely without assistance from another human being. Because of this, I keep my medicine cabinet stocked with some very specific and helpful OTC items.

  • Thermometer. Sometimes it’s just a cold, but sometimes it’s strep throat. Or influenza, which is worse than strep. The easiest way to tell is to take your temperature. If you never show a sign of fever, it’s probably just a cold, so keep drinking fluids and just stay comfortable. If you have a fever, you should probably see a doctor. (Note: The flu does not always come with a fever. I am not a doctor, so if you think you should see one, get in your car. Now.) I typically take it as a rule that if I’m not feverish, then I’m not really in an emergency situation and can at least wait until my primary care physician’s office is open, rather than going to the ER.
  • Aleve and Excedrin. I’m a baby about pain. (Which is odd, because I just about sliced my thumb off once and was completely blasé about it.) I tend to get muscle aches in my thighs and lower back pretty easily, and they often keep me from sitting or standing comfortably for more than five minutes. Aleve takes care of that. And while I wouldn’t say my headaches are migraine level, they do feel like someone is enthusiastically drilling into my temple, so I like to nip those in the bud. I typically keep a bottle of each in my desk at work, too.
  • Night Time Cold Medicine or Tylenol PM. Sleep is so important. And it’s so hard to get when you’re not feeling well. Pain or sickness can keep you up for hours. I know if I can’t breathe, I can’t sleep either. Rather than toss and turn all night, I prefer to just knock down two tablespoons or caplets of the good stuff and send myself to dreamland. The dreams are weirder, but at least I can survive the next day.
  • Antibiotic Ointment and Bandages. I casually injure myself a lot. My legs are generally a mess of bruises from where I’ve fallen or run into things, I slice off bits of myself while cooking, and I tend to bite my fingernails until they bleed. Being able to do first aid quickly and easily is a must, and stopping infection before it starts is important.
  • Mucinex. I know that this stuff can be expensive. I work in a place with a clinic that will dispense it for free, but I know not everyone is so lucky. It’s a good thing to have on hand though, since if you start taking it at the beginning of a cold, it will keep it from settling in your chest and prevent a case of pneumonia. (I was advised this by a medical professional. Normally, I don’t take prophylactic OTC meds.) It thins out the mucus in your chest and makes it easier to expel. And while it can be pricey, you don’t take a lot of it, just one or two pills a day for a couple days, so it’s easy to keep around.

Notice that daytime cold meds are not a must for me. In fact, I don’t really like them because they make me loopy as all hell, and I have a hard time being functional on them. Much like “David After Dentist,” daytime cold medicine makes me wonder if this is “real life” a lot, thus getting me in trouble at work and while operating appliances, like the stove.

I recommend getting the basic medication and supplies that you need before you have a problem. That way, when you wake up sick, you can make a plan of action for how you’re going to handle your illness and whether you need to see a professional, just pop a couple pills and lay in bed, or doctor yourself into functionality for a long work day.

Since I have so many fellow Persephoneers who are sick, how do you guys stock your medicine cabinet?

By amandamarieg

Amandamarieg is a lawyer who does not work as a lawyer. She once wrote up a plan to take over the world and turned it in as a paper for a college course. She only received an A-, because she forgot that she would need tech geeks to pull off her scheme.

14 replies on “Stocking the Medicine Cabinet”

I love benadryl, it’s a wonder drug! Great for itching and allergies, it’s a great sleep aid, and I use it to overcome jet lag. (Stay awake until the earliest possible defensible sleep time, no caffeine. Take 1 -2 of the magic pink pills, lay down in a dark room. Stay in bed with the lights off all night, no matter what. Do not get out of bed until after 6am, even if you wake up earlier. Repeat each night until acclimatized.)

Benadryl spray
Band-aid blister band-aids
Sudafed (can only be bought once/30 days, plan ahead –do not wait until the death cold arrives)
Neosporin with pain relief
Mucinex D
Costco sized botte of ibuprofen

A basic pain reliever (I like aleve) and decongestant are my two year-round biggies. I have allergies, so I have a few snuffly weeks during the spring and fall (plus my winter colds), and it makes sense to have decongestants on hand.

A decent amount of various sizes of Band-Aids — real Band-Aids, not off-brand. And make sure you have some of the bigger, patch-like bandages; I’ve taken a small strip of skin off while shaving the legs in the shower TWICE now (on the outside of each ankle), and had to improvise with many regular sized bandages changed frequently AND an old-t-shirt-and-paper-towel bandage while I waited for a chance to get to a store. (And some form of disinfectant.)

Preventative care products: hot water bottle/heating pad, herbal teas (especially medicinal), other little things you know help you feel better when you need them. And chicken noodle/chicken-and-rice soup and your crackers of choice (I like Ritz crackers), because it’s magic.

Brand-name cloth (not the plastic ones) Band-Aids. I was in a situation where I had to put a band-aid on my toe every day for about 3 months (Lesson: Buy the better hiking boots.) I was told to use cloth because of letting things breathe. I cheeped out and bought the store-brand. The sticky on those things is not as good. Only Band-Aids for me!

Neti pot! I know, it’s so gross and takes a little getting used to. But if I start using it the moment I feel the twinge in my sinuses that tells me a cold is coming, I feel 75% better throughout the duration of the illness. It works so well for me, that if I have a cold, I really don’t get a lingering cough or a severely clogged nose any more. It used to be that I’d get a cold, and the damn thing would linger for 2 weeks after the worst of it was over.

I was in a situation while traveling where I didn’t have my neti pot and I was in a foreign country and couldn’t find the correct word for Neti Pot in the language and they weren’t as popular as they are here. No amount of pantomime could explain what I needed. I ended up sick as a dog, my sinuses rebelled, and I swore I’d pack my neti pot next time.

All hail the neti pot.

Ugh, my condolences about your cold. I had the killer virus of doom for a solid two weeks in December. I lost my voice for the first time ever, hurray for new experiences!

I’m a big fan of regular paracetamol for a cold. If you’re pushing through the pain and going about your usual daily activities you should be able to get in four doses a day, plus most people don’t have side effects. Most marketed ‘cold medicines’ have a propensity to make people drowsy or hyper. Personally decongestants give me headaches so I tend to stick with Olbas oil, which clears up my sinuses enough for me to get to sleep. I also like honey and lemon drinks, with cloves, which my dad always swore by. (I inherited my reluctance to medicate from him, making me the most hypocritical pharmacist ever).

Because I work at a hospital and can get some medicines for cheap (like paracetamol, ibuprofen, motilium, my prescription stomach medication) I tend not to go for the fancier OTC meds because they seem expensive in comparison. The one exception I make is for Strepsils because I get killer sore throats when I get a cold. I have two kinds I favour and I alternate between the two because you can only take one of each ever 4 hours or something.

People often express surprise that my medicine drawer isn’t chock full of antibiotics and stuff because I’m a pharmacist. All that’s in there is my prescription for acid reflux, some antispasmodics I only take if necessary and a big box of Ponstan because I got it once for sinus pain and it turns out it’s the only thing that has any effect on my period pain without upsetting my stomach. There might be some plasters and antiseptic cream but I think that’s it.

We mostly have random OTC stuff that expired several years ago as neither husband nor I are really big on taking medicine. ALL cough/cold meds make me loopy, so they’re completely out. I will take massive amounts of ibuprofen when my tonsils get swollen, which happens fairly often when I get a cold, but not often enough to get them taken out.

I do keep up to date on my vaccinations against airborne diseases, and I totally bullied Husband into getting his flu vaccine this year.

Oh, I do have multiple sizes of ace bandages and multiple topical analgesics since I’m always pulling or twisting something or other. Traumeel is the best!

I try to always have menthol cough drops on hand for when I’m sick. They taste nasty but for me they really do help with the coughing without having to take any medication. I’m currently sick and live in LA where it’s been super dry. Last night I woke up wheezing and couldn’t stop coughing – I drank a glass of water, had a menthol cough drop, and was able to calm the tickle in my throat and fall back asleep.

On that note, having a humidifier is really helpful too!

I’m hesitant about using Tylenol/Advil PM, especially since sometimes I just need help getting to sleep and don’t need any pain relief. I use Melatonin, which is a sleep hormone that comes in pill/capsule form. It’s a little gentler than other sleep aids I’ve used. But – melatonin and all other sleep aids do give me wicked nightmares.

And, I second Kleenex!! I just recently started buying real Kleenex tissues instead of using toilet paper and the difference in my nose-comfort level is dramatic!

Apart from all that Mr. Juniper squeezes into our medicine cabinet? We make sure to have plenty painkillers (paracetamol and ibuprophen) and basic first aid. Other than that, we don’t keep much else in there! I don’t do sleep aids of any kind, so at night time, it would just be regular ol’ painkillers. I do consider the food cupboards and extension of the medicine cupboard: nutrition is such an important part of health! So, we’re always stocked up on herbal tea, soup-y things and easy snack things. If there is illness about, we sometimes bring in Lucozade, too.

Hope you’re feeling better soon!

Add: Benadryl or a generic equivalent. It’s a sleep aid (check the back of Tylenol PM for ingredients) and an antihistamine for when you suddenly itch like crazy.

Cool Touch Moisturizing Kleenex. These are a godsend when you have a cold. For some reason, they are hard to find in my neck of the woods so I stock up for winter. Yes, like a squirrel.

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