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Buy These Staple Medicines Before You Need Them

woman shopping for cold medicines in the pharmacy aisle
Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock

Do you know when the absolute worst time to have to slog to the store to buy medicine is? When you need it most. Here are some basics you should keep on hand.

It’s a far too common scenario: You have a horrible head cold with enough congestion it feels like your sinuses are going to burst, and what do you need to do? Get in the car, drive to the nearest pharmacy, show them your ID to buy some Sudafed (you do want the good stuff, right?), try not to scream or pass out while they fumble keying your ID into the system, and then drive home to finally knock back your medicine and collapse into bed.

You can avoid all of that—if you do a little proactive stocking. You don’t need to run out and sweep the whole first-aid aisle into your shopping cart, but having more than an old bottle of Advil on hand can be useful. Here are some common medicines you can stock to avoid a trip to the store. Feel free to adjust the list based on the products/brands you use and your doctor’s recommendations—we’ve referenced the common medicines both by their best-known brand names as well as their active ingredient for convenience.

  • A strong decongestant: Nothing’s worse than trying to get through a workday with congestion strong enough to split your head. A lot of decongestants are on the market, but it’s tough to beat the original formulation of Sudafed (pseudoephedrine).
  • A cough suppressant/expectorant: Cough medicines come in two primary forms. Suppressants (like Robitussin Cough, which uses dextromethorphan) suppress the urge to cough. Expectorants, like Mucinex (which uses guaifenesin), thin the mucus, which decreases coughing and helps get it out of your system. Note, too, that many cough medicines combine these two ingredients.
  • An antihistamine: When you have an itchy rash from gardening or bugs chewed up your legs, a general antihistamine like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) can really tame the discomfort.
  • An antidiarrheal: The last place you want to go when you’re suffering from serious digestive upset is away from the bathroom, let alone in public. Keeping some Imodium A-D (loperamide) or Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) on hand means no treacherous run to the store to soothe your stomach.
  • Bandages and Antibacterial Ointment: These are things that always seem to be missing when you need them most. Keeping a box of bandages of assorted sizes, along with an antibacterial spray or ointment, means you (or your kids) won’t be left wanting.
  • Pedialyte: Diahrea and vomiting can leave you seriously dehydrated. Pedialyte can help rehydrate you and also replace the sodium and potassium you lose. While you can use something like Gatorade in a pinch, Pedialyte has less calories and sugar.

Pedialyte Freezer Pops - 16 ct, Pack of 2

You can even get Pedialyte freezer pops for when your kids are having trouble drinking fluids.

Our suggested list isn’t conclusive, and you should adjust it based on your own needs and medical considerations, but the general premise is sound regardless: The worst time to buy medicine is when you or somebody in your household is sick. Stock up on some basics to treat colds, allergic reactions, severe indigestion, and the like, and you’ll avoid an unpleasant trip to the 24-hour pharmacy when you’d much rather be in bed.

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at LifeSavvy, Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »
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