The 5 Emergency Meds You CANNOT Live Without - Be Prepared - Emergency Essentials

If you can only take a handful of medications with you during an emergency, these are the ones to pick

You only have so much space in your emergency supply—even less in your go-bag. You obviously can’t pack everything, which is why emergency planning so often becomes a game of what to keep and what to leave behind.
Nowhere is this mental math more important than with your medications.
There are dozens of pills and salves and syrups that would be
nice to have. But when it comes down to it, what are the things you
cannot live without?
Today we’re going to make answering that question a little easier. We’ve
consulted our in-house prep experts—medically trained, we might add—to get their take.
Here’s what they told us.

EVERYONE’S SUPPLY—INCLUDING THEIR EMERGENCY MEDICINE CABINET—WILL LOOK DIFFERENT

There are relatively few 100-percent hard-and-fast rules to emergency
preparation. The medicine supply for a 250-pound NFL linebacker is going to be very different than one for a 90-pound grandma.
Feel free to tailor our advice to your own unique needs.
Of course, we’re far from the final word on medical topics. PLEASE
CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE USING THE MEDICATIONS LISTED BELOW.

PRIORITIZE THESE TWO THINGS AND YOU CAN’T GO WRONG

When planning what medications to keep and what to leave behind, there are really two fundamental rules that should guide your decision making:
1. Go with “Life Saving” Over “Nice to Have”
– Lots of medications are made primarily to relieve temporary symptoms: sniffles, coughs, headaches, etc. Unless these symptoms are debilitating—which happens, just ask anyone with migraines—meds that treat them would take a back seat to those that help keep you upright.
2. Go with Medications You’re Most Likely to Use
– This second rule sounds obvious but is worth noting. It’s important to prioritize the medications that would be most useful for the emergencies you’re likely to face. For example, one of the most common injuries in an
emergency are lacerations from debris. Meds that help you deal with lacerations should take precedent over ones that treat, for example, poisoning.

MUST-HAVE MED #1: YOUR OWN PRESCRIPTIONS

The most life-threatening disaster scenarios aren’t always a result of the
elements. Just last year we interviewed a young man who was stranded for days after a massive rainstorm. Even though his house flooded, the real danger was keeping his blood clot medication cool—and then running out of it.
“I was definitely worrying about whether things were going to be alright,” he said. “I'm sitting there underneath a tree, hoping I can keep things cool; enough just so I can keep my [medicine] at room temperature.”
Communicate with Your Doctor – The first thing to do to get your backup stockpile of meds is to communicate with your doctor. Tell him or her that you’re preparing for an emergency and would like as much extra medication as it makes sense to have.
Stockpile as Much as You Can – We’ve seen many doctors recommend keeping a 3-day minimum supply of your prescription medications at all times. We recommend tripling that amount (at a minimum) and extending it to a month if you can.
As one doctor puts it, it’s a good general policy to “have more than you think you’ll need on hand.”
Be Ready for Extra Expense – Some insurance companies will only cover 30-days’ worth of medications. If you want more than that, you may have to pay out of pocket.
Store It in Your Toilet Tank – If worse comes to worse and the power goes out, you can keep refrigerated meds in your refrigerator for up to a day. Once your fridge has dropped to room temperature, you can place your meds in a Ziplock bag and store them in the tank (not the bowl) of your toilet. Tank water stays much cooler than room temperature, even during a power outage.
Ask for Pills – Pills and tablets tend last longer than liquid medication and can stay stable beyond their shelf life, too. There’s still a lot of debate around medication shelf life in general. Some experts are pushing drug companies to re-evaluate and extend the shelf life of many medications. Make sure to ask your doctor how long you can safely store yours.

MUST-HAVE MED #2: PAIN RELIEVERS

They may not seem “lifesaving” on their face, but anyone who’s stayed up all night with feverish baby can testify to the power of pain medication. Plus, they have a wide range of temporary benefits that make them one of the best go-to’s in any emergency medicine cabinet.
Most of us old timers have gotten to know pain meds better than we’d like, but for those who haven’t, there are two main categories of pain relievers: acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Tylenol is an acetaminophen and Aspirin, Aleve, and Ibuprofen are examples of NSAIDs.
Each of the two categories have a number of symptoms and ailments they can help relieve:
A wide variety of pain – While other medications are specialized, pain
meds are a kind of a jack of all trades when it comes to symptom relief. They can help with headaches, muscle aches, colds and sore throats, toothaches, and backaches. This makes them super useful when you’ve got limited space in an emergency.
Fever Reducer – Like we said, both acetaminophen and NSAIDs are
effective at bringing down a fever. This can be a godsend, especially in situations where you don’t have access to doctors or hospitals.
Reactions to Vaccinations – It’s a little-known fact that acetaminophen
can treat dangerous reactions to vaccines. This may not come up through the course of most emergencies, but the one time it does you’ll be happy you knew about it.
Reduces Swelling – NSAIDs like ibuprofen are also used to reduce swelling in the body, which can help with pain, range of motion, sleep, and general healing.

MUST-HAVE MED #3: ANTI-DIARRHEALS

Under normal circumstances (and in developed countries) diarrhea is a
common and manageable problem. In emergency situations, when
contamination is rampant and medical services are spotty, it can become far more dangerous. A bad bout can deplete bodily fluids shockingly quickly—in extreme cases more rapidly than they can be replaced.
While most over-the-counter medications won’t cure the underlying causes of diarrhea, they can slow it down. The two most effective common medications are:
Loperamide: Which slows down movements through your intestines giving you time to absorb water. Imodium is the most well-known of these. The shelf life of Loperamide will vary based on the form, formula, packaging, and how it was stored. Chewable tablets, for example, are listed to last about two years.
Bismuth Subsalicylate: Eases inflammation and can even help guard your intestines from germs. It has been shown to help alleviate nausea. Pepto Bismol, Kaopectate, and Maalox are all Bismuth Subsalicylates.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. Along with an effective anti-diarrheal, make
sure you also stock enough water and electrolytes. Medication is no
substitute for frequent hydration.

MUST-HAVE MED #4: ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL

It isn’t exactly a “medication,” but isopropyl alcohol is a staple of medicine cabinets everywhere. It needs to be one of your top selections for emergency medical care. Here’s why.
Disinfects Lacerations – We’ve mentioned it already, but bad cuts and
scrapes are some of the most common medical issues you’ll face in any
emergency situation. All it takes is a single, tiny point of entry for the wrong kind of bacteria to cause serious trouble.
To prevent that, apply the alcohol as soon as possible after being cut.
Because it’s liquid, it’s great at penetrating every point of even a jagged
laceration (that’s called “wound irrigation”).
Hydrogen Peroxide Works, Too  – Hydrogen peroxide is also a good disinfectant, though it’s harder on your skin and needs to sit a while before it fully disinfects. However, it will “debride” a laceration—clearing away necrotic cells—which can be helpful in the short run. Over the long run, though, some doctors are concerned that it can actually slow healing because it’s harsh composition kills healthy, living cells as well.
Disinfects Surfaces – 70 to 80 percent isopropyl is also darned effective at killing the types of microbes that cause the stomach issues we talked about above. It also kills bacteria on your hands.

Must-Have Med #5: Antibiotic Ointment

Rounding off our list is antibiotic ointment. On its own it can prevent infections that would stop you in your tracks but our experts recommend pairing it with isopropyl alcohol—a common practice in trauma treatment. Flush your wound with alcohol for a quick, thorough disinfecting, and then apply the ointment and wrap it in clean cloth or bandages (gauze if you have it).

 Long Term Disinfectant – Antibiotic ointment makes a much better long-term disinfectant than alcohol, which rubs off and dissipates quickly, forcing you to constantly remove and re-apply your bandages. This lets in new bacteria and wastes your precious bandage supply at the worst possible time.

More Than Just a “Disinfectant” – Antibiotic ointment, on the other hand, remains on your skin, disinfecting for hours. During that time it helps healing in lots of ways: it moistens the wound, acts as a physical barrier to bacteria, and even relieves pain.   

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17 comments

JIm

JIm

ONE thing I see you all mention Hydrogen peroxide, keep in mind YOu need to keep it in a cool Stable Environment at a decent temperature ( 65-80 ish) if you have opened the container expect the HP will loose effectiveness quickly Pour HP on the wound area and you should witness a decent amount of Foaming (effective) the Less Foam the less Use it is NO foam No good, also Baking soda & peroxide will keep your Teeth healthy baking soda has Loads of potential for health and cleaning scouring pans to ….. try to keep some in a plastic container to keep it dry and Humid free

pamela PAM alston

pamela PAM alston

another must have for me is colloidial silver,it helps everything,including lungs,and i added sanitary pads for ladies to my stash for deep wound covers…works well…..another should have is sinus meds….thanks for all your posts and help..

CJ

CJ

Benadryl can also be used in conjunction with ibuprofen for migraines. I live with chronic migraine and my neurologist has me take that if I get a migraine at night. My normal migraine shot has to be refrigerated so I have a large supply of Benadryl, ibuprofen and excedrin.

stephen c. mcdavitt

stephen c. mcdavitt

Great article and advice, one more thing I would add is the benefits of honey as a food source and it has been shown to have antibacterial properties. Since I am not a doctor or nurse I have to consult my primary care doctor to ensure I’m heading in the right way about dealing with any emergency.

Oldpa

Oldpa

These 5 medical items are a very good idea. Alcohol and hydrogen peroxide (hp) on hand for cleaning wounds is a good idea. I understand hp, helps the blood to keep flowing and I’ve been told it’s a good thing for small cuts.
Thanks for your information.
Personally I am setting up for at least 2 years. My thought is long term is best and definitely will take care of short term.

Mary

Mary

Very, very good.

Madalena

Madalena

Thank You for always being there for us and All your Helpful Articles! :)

Stephen J Sigler

Stephen J Sigler

this was a great post

DL

DL

Benadryl. If you have an allergic reaction to something, it’s a must have.

Gena Taylor

Gena Taylor

You might mention that although H2O2 might not be as good at disinfecting a deep wound, it also doesn’t hurt like putting alcohol on a wound. I once had an infection from a surgery and for whatever reason the doctor applied alcohol to it and I felt like I had been stabbed in the back. Literally, not exaggerating one bit. After he left the room I had asked the nurses why he had done that and they had both said they had no idea that neither of them could believe he had done that.
Maybe for a scratch, it would still hurt, but too painful for a deep wound.

D

D

Benadryl. Good as an anti histamine, allergic reactions, mild sedation. Inexpensive and easily available.

David Burnham

David Burnham

Vitamins may not be medications but still important to have especially during a stressful time. The stress associated with the situations the article is referring to is likely to increase ones vulnerability to infection and disease by compromising ones immune system. Vitamin C is an easy one. Asorbic acid is not only inexpensive it also has a very long shelf life. The freeze dried fruits and vegetables also have a long shelf life and contain not only vitamins but also other important nutrients that can help prevent disease, and promote healing.

Lola Heinze

Lola Heinze

I already have a 3 month supply of my prescription drugs in my to go bag. In addition I have imodium, antibiotic ointments, first aid dressings, tylenol, aspirin and arthritis strength aspirin. We have on (back) order several antibiotics for bacterial infections through a pharmaceutical company. I also am trying to get silvadene for burns. I have hydrogen peroxide and alcohol as well. What other items would you suggest

Joanna S Nadolny

Joanna S Nadolny

Thank you for sharing with all of us very useful thank you so very much

Violinmaven

Violinmaven

Another very important and critical item to have is food grade hydrogen peroxide-that is, 35% hydrogen peroxide. This is NOT the stuff in the brown bottle at the drug store! This is typically sold at health food stores and is really important to have on hand. Also, an ozone generating machine is a very good item to keep. This is a purifying device that will help keep you safe.

Lois

Lois

I am an RNC and this was spot on. It is a great idea to.prepare a zip lock.bag with all.those items already loaded so you can grab and go. Replace all items once every few months so all are Fresh and ready to use of necessary.

Michael Gilliam

Michael Gilliam

FINALLY someone wrote and informative article about things that every person should have and DIDN’T waste my time. I was able to scroll right down to the list and make sure it was correct before copying as and forwarding to Family and friends.

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