Stock the basics and be ready when you're hit with a headache, heartburn, or an annoying allergy attack.
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Still stocking the same bottle of Advil you took to college with you? Sounds like it’s time to hit the drugstore. Whether it’s a pounding headache, stuffy nose, or a nasty case of heartburn, the following OTC meds and first-aid essentials can make some of the most annoying ailments more bearable. Be sure to read the label on any OTC drug before taking it, as different brands will have their own product-specific instructions for dosing, extraneous warnings, and expiration dates.
For headaches, backaches, muscle pain, and joint pain—including the aches and pain that come with colds and the flu—ibuprofen is a must, says Minesh Khatri, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and a general internist at Columbia University Medical Center. Look for Motrin, Advil, or Aleve—which is generally longer-acting than the first two. To note: Ibuprofen is categorized as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). What you need to know? Anyone with heart or kidney disease or high blood pressure should avoid (or check with your doc before using)—as should anyone with ulcers or stomach problems, as NSAIDS are known to cause irritation. And avoid alcohol when taking, which can make stomach irritation worse.10 Foods That Reduce Anxiety >>>
Better known as Tylenol, it can be used to relieve most of the symptoms as ibuprofen—headaches and muscle aches—and it tends to be better at reducing fevers. It usually causes less stomach irritation than ibuprofen, and is generally safe for those who need to stay away from NSAIDs. Like ibuprofen, it’s best to skip alcohol when taking Tylenol—or any meds with acetaminophen, Khatri says.14 Best Things You Can Do For Your Body >>>
Allergies? One tablet relieves itching, sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes whether caused by seasonal allergies or everyday allergies to mold, animals, or dust. They work best if taken before you expose yourself to known allergens, and can block symptoms before they start—but will relieve symptoms later on, too. They come in non-drowsy formulas (like Claritin) that can be taken any time of day, or sedating formulas (like Benadryl), to be taken before sleep (and sans alcohol).4 Ways to Minimize Irritation If You're Training With Allergies >>>
4. OTC Cold and Flu Combo
Nothing can prevent or cure colds and flu, since most are caused by viruses (washing hands often and staying hydrated are your best defenses, Khatri says). But, a combo drug can cut the “fog” that comes with congestion, along with cough, sore throat, and runny and stuffy noses. Look for a combination product with a nasal decongestant (“pseudoephedrine” or “phenylephrine” on the label), a cough suppressant, and a pain reliever (an NSAID or acetaminophen). Try Tylenol Cold & Flu or Sudafed PE Pressure + Pain + Cough.10 Ways to Fight Colds and the Flu >>>
5. H2 Blocker
For nights when you finish the whole burrito…One of these meds, like Zantac (ranitidine) or Pepcid (famotidine), helps reduce the excess stomach acid that causes heartburn and indigestion. They should provide relief within the hour. For less severe indigestion, try an antacid (like Maalox) or Pepto Bismol. Or if you know you’re prone to heartburn and indigestion try taking a proton pump inhibitor—a stronger med, like Prilosec—earlier in the day (ahead of whatever triggers the pain), Khatri says.5 Fats You Shouldn't Fear >>>
6. Nasal Spray
For nasal congestion due to allergies or early signs of a cold, liquid sprays like Afrin (oxymetazoline)—which get pumped directly into your nose—relieve symptoms without having to pop a pill. Or try a non-medicated netty pot, which flushes salt water in one nostril and out the other, offering some of the same benefits (minus the medication).Note: Medicated sprays are not meant to be used for longer than three days, Khatri says (overuse could lead to a rebound congestion effect). If symptoms persist, see your MD.Putting Cold Remedies To The Test >>>
It's a go-to for poison ivy, bug bites, or any allergic reactions that cause itching or rash, Khatri says. If you cannot identify a rash or bite, check with your doctor. But, if you can pinpoint the allergic trigger that you came in contact with (poison ivy, a certain metal, or a soap or cosmetic), one of these low-strength OTC creams can help relieve the irritation. And as a general rule, if the rash or irritation doesn't clear up in five days to a week, schedule an appointment with your doctor to get it checked.7 Grossest Gym Germs >>
When you're sick, keeping tabs on your temperature can tell you when it’s time to get help—and tell your doctor what you need. People can generally ride out low-grade fevers (those below 100 degrees) on their own, but it’s best not to leave higher fevers alone for more than a few days before seeing the doctor, Khatri says. And being able to tell your doc how long your fever has been lingering will make it easier to prescribe the right treatment, whether that’s a dose of antibiotics or sending you home for more R&R.Training Q&A: Should You Exercise When You're Sick?
Obvious, yes. But a staple nonetheless. For most minor cuts and scrapes, washing with soap and water, then letting them heal on their own is the best prescription. Letting them "breathe" speeds up the healing process, Khatri says. But for deeper cuts, or ones that are likely to get dirty or further injured, covering with a bandage protects wounds until they scab over. For deep or dirty gnashes, see your doctor to get checked for infection—and a tetanus shot (if you haven’t had one in the last 10 years).CrossFit First AId Kit: 9 Items to Have On Hand >>>
10. Ice Pack
Because accidents are bound to happen…it’s definitely worthwhile to keep an ice pack around for sprains, strains, and twisted ankles, Khatri says. Icing injured muscles or ligaments for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day, helps reduce pain and swelling. Other ways to help reduce swelling are keeping the injured area wrapped in an elastic bandage and keeping it elevated (especially at night). Swelling should go down in a few days, though even minor sprains and strains can take anywhere from three to six weeks to heal completely.6 Innovative Ways to Ice Sore Muscles>>>