What are the 7 must have medicines?
Learn the seven common “must-have” medicines and first aid supplies to have on hand in case of emergencies.

A well-stocked medicine cabinet is essential for every household to treat a minor illness or injury, such as headache, runny nose, aches and pains, and insect bites. These items can help ensure a healthy and safe life.

Here are some suggestions of common medicines and first aid supplies that you should have on hand in case of emergencies when you cannot get to a pharmacy.

  1. Acetaminophen
    • These are pain and fever relievers that can reduce inflammation related to conditions, such as backaches and toothaches, common cold, arthritis, and sprains. These can be administered to kids and minors though you should be mindful of the age-appropriate dosages.
  2. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), ibuprofen, or Aspirin
    • They work as a pain reliever for adults and help decrease swelling and pain caused by inflammation.
    • Ibuprofen can be used to relieve pain due to various conditions, such as headache, dental pain, period pain, muscle aches, or arthritis.
    • According to the American Heart Association (AHA), crushed Aspirin helps during a heart attack.
  3. Decongestants or cough suppressants
    • These are available in several forms (syrups, pills) that contain pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine.
    • Cough expectorants (works by loosening mucus) and suppressants (works by controlling or reducing cough) are necessary for quick relief from incessant colds, flu, and cough.
    • Decongestants help clear a runny nose and relieve postnasal drip.
    • Avoid using opioid-based cough suppressants.
  4. Antihistamines
  5. Antacids, laxatives, antidiarrheal, oral rehydration solution (ORS)
  6. Antibiotic or antiseptic ointments and bandages
    • An antiseptic ointment, such as betadine, helps clean wounds, cuts, scrapes, and bites.
    • Adhesive bandages and plenty of gauze pads are essential in case of any physical wound to stop the blood flow or cover the wound to prevent infections.
  7.  Eye drops
    • Eye drops containing decongestants can soothe itchy and red eyes and helps moisten the eyes.
    • Lubricant eye drops help deal with screen-induced eye fatigue and dryness.

10 additional medical items you should keep at home

  1. Thermometer for an accurate temperature reading
  2. Heat and ice packs to provide relief from headaches, sprains, injuries, and sore muscles
  3. First aid kits
  4. Vitamin and mineral supplements
  5. Lozenges
  6. Nasal sprays
  7. Ear drops
  8. Medicines for motion sickness
  9. Sterile dressings or medical tapes
  10. Skincare products, such as moisturizers and sunscreens

7 tips for using over-the-counter medicines

  1. Always read and follow the printed directions and warnings on the packet label.
  2. Look at the list of ingredients or contents mentioned and choose products that suit you the best and you are not allergic to.
  3. Check the expiration date before using any product or medicines.
  4. Store medicines in a cool, dry area.
  5. Keep all medicines out of the reach of children.
  6. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should talk to their providers before taking any new medicines.
  7. Older adults and children are affected by medicines differently; take special care about dosages when giving over-the-counter medicines to them.


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Medically Reviewed on 4/13/2022
Image Source: iStock Image

Medline Plus. Over-the-counter medicines. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002208.htm

Moser R. Stocking Your Home Pharmacy. WebMD. https://blogs.webmd.com/from-our-archives/20101115/stocking-your-home-pharmacy-the-ten-items-everyone-needs-to-have