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Friday, October 30, 2020

Stock Your Medicine Cabinet the Right Way

Is your medicine cabinet ready for anything? What if you get the coronavirus? Here’s what you need to know.

Most of us have medicine cabinets that still contain the last two tablets of the flu medicine we desperately needed two years ago, three pain relievers we bought because we couldn’t find the first one when we needed it, the nasal spray we never really liked … you get the picture, and it isn’t pretty. Leftovers, products that didn’t work — they’re in there. And so are items so old we don’t want to know. And maybe, just maybe if we root around long enough, we can find the thing we need when we need it. 

What to Take for COVID-19

The coronavirus is here to stay. If you think you may have it, you may wonder what to do. For the latest updates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), go here.  There has been some controversy over which pain reliever to use, and whether one might make symptoms worse. The first thing to know is that no over-the-counter medication will treat the virus itself or reduce the time you are sick; they simply relieve symptoms. 

That said, acetaminophen (Tylenol), naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) all help lower a fever and reduce body aches. Acetaminophen can be taken according to the directions on the label; higher doses can cause liver damage. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Early on, there was concern that taking it might worsen outcomes for coronavirus patients, but that does not appear to be true. Make sure to take it with food, and avoid using it if you have kidney or ulcer problems. Naproxen is another NSAID that is similar to ibuprofen, but can last longer, up to 12 hours. The same caveats apply to naproxen as to ibuprofen. 

If your doctor has ever told you not to take one or all of these pain relievers, then don’t take them for coronavirus without consulting a medical professional. However, for most people, they appear to be a safe, easily available remedy when taken as recommended for body pain and fever.

Avoid Combination Products

Older folks and people with multiple chronic conditions should avoid products that combine a variety of medications to treat multiple symptoms. For example, DayQuil and NyQuil. Most of the products in these combination items are available individually, and often for less money. The individual medications, such as a pain reliever, cough suppressant, and decongestant, can then be used (or not) to target specific symptoms. 

Many of these combo products may even contain drugs that cause side effects that would be contraindicated for older adults and those with certain chronic conditions. Benadryl (diphenhydramine), for instance, which is an antihistamine, has the potential side effect of causing dizziness, drowsiness and falls. Another danger is that many of the cold/flu combination products contain additional Tylenol (acetaminophen). Many people may not realize this and will often take more Tylenol separately, leading to dangerously high levels of acetaminophen — a leading cause of liver failure. 

But this is one area where it’s not too hard, or too big a project, to clean up and prepare. First, start by emptying your cabinet completely. That’s right, take every last bottle, pill and box out so you can wipe out the area. Next step, go through and throw out everything that is past its expiration date. Yeah, maybe that aspirin is still okay if it just expired, but toss it anyway. What you’ll have when you’re done is a cabinet full of fresh products that will be ready and able to serve you for a long time. 

Next, toss anything that you don’t use. You know the products: you tried them once, and hated the taste, or how they made you feel, or the way they didn’t work. Put them in the circular file. You should be left with a small amount of products you like that are well within their use-by date. That’s a great start! Now, you can fill in the “blanks” in the small arsenal of remedies that will come to your rescue should you get sick. To make sure we got the best, we used a team of doctors, nurses and pharmacists to recommend their go-to items. Here, then, is what a well-stocked medicine cabinet might contain. Customize it for what you will use most often.

  • Tylenol Regular Strength Pain Reliever (acetaminophen). Effective for headaches and fevers, acetaminophen has the added benefit of few drug interactions and a high degree of safety. With fever being a hallmark symptom of the coronavirus, this is your first line of defense, and it works on muscle aches and pain, too. 
  • Advil Coated Tablets (ibuprofen). Unlike acetaminophen, ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory and works on alternate pain pathways. Dentists recommend it for a temporary toothache, and ibuprofen is even better at killing muscle and body pain than acetaminophen. But it can cause gastro-intestinal upset. For optimal results, alternate the two drugs to reduce pain.
  • Robitussin Maximum Strength Cough and Chest Congestion DM Non-Drowsy Liquid. When you get a cough, you want something that will let you sleep without being interrupted by fits of coughing and help you get rid of mucous. The dextromethorphan will help you rest while guaifenesin takes care of mucous buildup. 
  • Zyrtec 24 Hour Allergy Relief Tablets. For fast allergy relief that doesn’t make you sleepy, try these highly recommended tablets that users swear by.
  • Afrin (oxymetazoline). This topical nasal spray, used for congestion, can be a better option than taking a product such as Sudafed, especially for older adults. It has more of a local effect and less potential to aggravate heart/blood pressure issues than taking oral Sudafed. 
  • Visine Original Redness Relief Eye Drops for Red Eyes & Eye Irritation. The active ingredient, tetrahydrozoline, is an effective decongestant that will constrict blood vessels and leave you looking and feeling better fast.
  • Zaditor Antihistamine Eye Drops. If itchy eyes are a problem, these drops will get down to the root cause. The medicine they contain is very similar to prescription drops, and it works fast. Keep another bottle in your car if you are prone to sudden onsets during allergy season. 
  • Pepto Bismol Liquid. It’s cheap and it works. Health professionals gave it the nod because it deals with multiple symptoms: nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach and diarrhea. One product to treat a variety of complaints.
  • MiraLAX Laxative Powder. For a different problem, try this gentle laxative that works with your body’s natural processes. “It’s relatively inert and not absorbed by the intestines,” says gastroenterologist Austin Chiang, who likes that it doesn’t lose its effect over time. You won’t get the bloating, cramping or sudden urgency caused by some other products.
  • Tums Antacid Chewable Tablets. Heartburn goes away quickly after chewing up and swallowing these delicious tabs that come in a variety of flavors. Put a package in your purse or wallet for relief whenever and wherever you need it. 
  • Neosporin Original Antibiotic Ointment. Hands down the best germ-killer for minor cuts and scrapes. Three ingredients combine to give you protection and keep wounds moist for less scarring, and it doesn’t burn. If you’re one of the rare people with an allergy to this ointment, stick with bacitracin antibiotic alone.
  • Solimo Melatonin 3mg. Can’t sleep? Melatonin supplements are natural, mimicking the hormone activity in your body. It’s non-addictive and won’t make you overly drowsy like some medications. 

Click below for the other articles in the October 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors