We spend a lot of time talking about natural and alternative remedies, and we often make recommendations of what herbal medicines to have in your storage. We’ve also discussed antibiotics and a number of other prescription medications you should stockpile and how to obtain them. We haven’t spent much time, however, on which over-the-counter medications are important to stockpile now.
Over the Counter Drugs
Over the counter (OTC) medications deal with a wide variety of problems; many of them were once prescription medications. These medications are widely available, and easy to accumulate in quantity. As such, they are ideal for the survival medic’s cache of medical supplies. Given the complexity of manufacturing pharmaceuticals, these drugs will be nearly impossible to produce after a collapse. Even aspirin, the oldest manufactured drug, won’t be available (at least not in a form you’ll recognize).
Medical Supplies to Stockpile
But let’s put together a list of what you absolutely must have stockpiled as part of your medical supplies. We’ll go one by one.
Ibuprofen 200mg (Motrin, Advil): A popular pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, and fever reducer. This medication is useful for many different problems, which makes it especially useful as a stockpile item. It can alleviate pain from strains, sprains, arthritis, and traumatic injury. As well, it can help reduce inflammation in the injured area. Ibuprofen is also useful in reducing fevers from infections. The downside to Ibuprofen is that it can cause stomach upset. Ibuprofen can be used 1 or 2 every 4 hours, 3 every 6 hours, or 4 every 8 hours.
Acetaminophen 325mg (Tylenol): Another popular pain reliever and fever reducer, this medication is known as Tylenol in the United States. It can be used for all of the problems that you can take Ibuprofen for, with the added benefit of not causing stomach irritation or thinning the blood. Unfortunately, it has no significant anti-inflammatory effect. This drug is excellent for treatment of pain and fevers in children at lower doses. Tylenol comes in regular and extra strength (650mg); adults take 1-2 every 4 hours.
An Aside: Patients with heat stroke receive no benefit from efforts to reduce their body core temperature with Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen; these drugs work best when the fever is caused by an infection, and don’t work as well when infection is not involved (e.g., heat stroke).
Aspirin, 325mg: If you have Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen in your medical storage, why consider Aspirin? Aspirin has been around since the late 19th century as a pain-reliever, fever reducer, and anti-inflammatory, but it has blood thinning properties as well, as may be all we have to help those with medical issues that require the use of anti-coagulants It’s also useful to treat older folks with coronary artery disease. If you suspect someone of having a heart attack, have them chew an adult aspirin immediately. The ingredient in Aspirin can also be obtained by chewing on a cut strip of the underbark of a willow, aspen or poplar tree. Take 2 adult aspirin for pain, fever, and inflammation, 1 baby aspirin (81mg) daily to help with coronary artery disease and as an anticoagulant. In a collapse situation, higher doses may be appropriate to replace drugs like Coumadin, but have not been fully researched. Watch for stomach upset.
Loperamide, 2mg (Imodium): There’s a high likelihood of food and water contamination issues in the aftermath of a disaster, so this medication is essential as an anti-diarrheal. By slowing intestinal motility, less water loss and, thus, dehydration, will occur; remember that dehydration due to diarrheal disease killed more soldiers in the Civil War than bullets did. With diarrheal disease, you often have nausea and vomiting, so you will want to have:
Meclizine 12.5, 25, 50mg(Dramamine, Antivert): Mecilizine is a medication that helps prevent nausea and vomiting. Often used to prevent motion sickness, Meclizine also helps with dizziness, and tends to act as a sedative as well. As such, it may have uses as a sleep aid or anti-anxiety medication. Take 1 25mg tablet 1 hour before boarding , or 50-100mg daily in divided doses for dizziness, anxiety or sleep.
Triple Antibiotic Ointment (Neosporin, Bacitracin, Bactroban): In situations where we are left to fend for ourselves, we’ll be chopping wood and performing all sorts of tasks that will expose us to risk of injury. When those injuries break the skin, it puts us in danger of infections which could lead to a life threatening condition. Triple antibiotic ointment is applied at the site of injury to prevent this from happening. It should be noted that triple antibiotic ointment won’t cure a deep infection; you would need oral or IV antibiotics for that, but using the ointment immediately after an injury will give you a good chance at preventing it. Apply 3-4 times a day.
Diphenhydramine 25mg, 50mg(Benadryl): An antihistamine that helps alleviate the itching, rashes, nasal congestion and other symptoms of allergic reactions. It also helps drain the nasal passages in some respiratory infections. At the higher 50 mg dose, it makes an effective sleep aid. Use 25mg every 6 hours for mild reactions, 50mg every 6 hours for severe reactions, anxiety or sleep.
Hydrocortisone cream (1%): Speaking of rashes, this cream is used for various types of dermatitis that causes redness, flakiness, itching, and thickening of the skin. It’s a mild steroid which reduces inflammation and, as such, the various symptoms of allergic dermatitis, eczema, diaper rash, etc. Apply 3-4 times a day to affected area.
Omeprazole 20-40mg, Cimetidine 200-800mg, Ranitidine 75-150mg, (Prilosec, Tagamet, Zantac, respectively): In a situation where we may be eating things we’re not accustomed to, we may have issues with stomach acid. These antacids will calm heartburn, queasiness, and stomach upset. Calcium Carbonate (Tums) or Magnesium sulfate (Maalox) are also fine in solid form. These medications are also useful for acid reflux and ulcer disease.
Clotrimazole, Miconazole cream/powder(Lotrimin, Monistat): Infections can be bacterial, but they can also be caused by fungus. Common examples of this would be Athlete’s feet (tinea pedis), vaginal infections (monilia), ringworm , and jock itch (tinea cruris). Clotrimazole and Miconazole are examples of anti-fungal medications that would be useful to treat these conditions, which will be just as common in times of trouble as they are now, if not more. Apply twice a day externally, or once daily intra-vaginally. Some vaginal creams come in different strengths. In some, the whole treatment course is over in one day; in others, 3 days or a week.
Multivitamins: In a societal collapse, the unavailability of a good variety of food may lead to dietary deficiencies, not just in calories but in vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C deficiency, for example, leads to Scurvy. To prevent these issues, you should have plenty of multivitamins, commercial or natural, in your medical storage. You won’t have to take these on a daily basis; many multivitamins give you MORE than you need if taken daily, and you’ll just excrete what your body can’t absorb. In a collapse, once a week would be sufficient to prevent most problems.
The good news is that you can probably obtain a significant amount of all of the above drugs for a reasonable amount of money. To retain full potency, these medications should be obtained in pill or capsule form; avoid the liquid versions of any of these medicines if at all possible. When storing, remember that medications should be stored in cool, dry, dark places. A medicine stored at 90 degrees will lose potency much faster than one stored at 50 degrees.
Over the counter drugs are just another tool in the medical woodshed; accumulate them as well as prescription drugs such as antibiotics. Essential oils, herbal supplements, and medical equipment are also important. With a good stockpile, you’ll have everything you need to keep it together health-wise, even if everything else falls apart.
Joe Alton MD
Learn more about OTC drugs and 150 other medical topics in the award-winning 4th edition of The Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide For When Help is Not on the Way!