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They may not send you to the hospital but minor illnesses and injuries sure can cause serious discomfort. Keeping just a few store-bought medications on hand can help prepare for the majority of your family’s everyday medical needs.

Nancy Palamara, Pharm.D, Vice President of Diagnostics and Therapeutics at Holy Name, says there are five essential over-the-counter items that everyone should have in their medicine cabinet to alleviate the most common ailments.

"While each household has different needs depending on the ages of the family members and frequent visitors, these are basic products that will help alleviate a wide range of minor conditions for a majority of people," Palamara said.

  • Pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, which can also be used to reduce fever, soothe a sore throat, alleviate headaches, lessen reactions to injections, and ease common cramps like those from menstrual periods.
  • Allergy medications, including capsules, eye drops and nasal sprays, especially those containing the antihistamine diphenhydramine, which is well-suited for initial treatment of allergic reactions. (Liquid form medicines allow use at all ages).
  • Anti-diarrheal medications, specifically those containing the ingredient loperamide, which restores digestive rhythm and allows the body to absorb more liquids, or bismuth subsalicylate, which can also alleviate associated symptoms like heartburn, indigestion, and nausea.
  • Decongestants, in oral or spray form, that can relieve nasal congestion and sinus pressure from head colds, the flu, hay fever and sinusitis.
  • Antibacterial cream or ointment, which is used to treat or prevent skin infections that can result from minor cuts, scrapes, burns, abrasions, or insect bites.

Palamara notes that this list is in addition to prescription medications. She also cautions paying careful attention to labels, keeping medications out of reach of children, and to seeking medical attention if the over-the-counter remedies are not helpful or symptoms worsen.

"A trusted pharmacist can assist with selecting the over-the-counter medications best suited for you and your family," she said.