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Over-The-Counter Medical Supplies You Should Stockpile

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Living off the grid often puts us into some fairly remote locations. That can make a routine trip to a drug store a major undertaking if we need something for immediate relief from pain, an illness or injury. It can become particularly problematic if you are living in a region that has been subject to a natural or man-made disaster. For not a lot of money, and with a bit of pre-planning, you can easily stockpile a good assortment of over-the-counter remedies that should handle some of the everyday conditions or emergencies you could encounter, and some significant events as well. (For a list of essential oils to stockpile, click here.)

At times throughout this article, specific medicines are referred to by their common brand name, but you should probably consider the generics as an alternative. Generic versions of most medicines are less expensive and typically have the same ingredients and proportions. How and when you purchase these items depends on your disposable income and your location. Most are available through the Internet, but can be easily found in any pharmacy or grocery store. Buying this full list all at once can add up, so you could always purchase a few items when you shop and slowly build up your inventory. The items are presented with some sense of priority, starting with pain relievers and moving down the list to conditions or injuries that are statistically less likely to occur.

If you have children, keep in mind that many over-the-counter medicines are available in children’s dosages. If you understand what a child’s dose should be, you could potentially reduce the dosage of an adult version, but make sure you know exactly how to reduce the dosage. Cutting a pill in half is an easy way to halve the dosage, but what do you do if it’s a caplet filled with a powder-like substance?

Pain Relief

It’s about more than a headache. Many injuries, illnesses and conditions create varying levels of pain, and pain relief helps. Keep a careful eye on recommended dosages and think about alternating types of pain relievers based on dosage times to see if one does better than the other. Aspirin is the standard pain reliever, but ibuprofen also has some benefits related to inflammation due to an injury. There are also topical pain relievers such as anesthetic sprays like Bactine or Solarcaine that can provide relief for minor burns and scrapes or conditions that cause itching. A product like Cortisone-10 also can provide relief for these kinds of conditions.

    • Aspirin
    • Ibuprofen
    • Acetaminophen
    • Bactine spray
    • Corizone-10 or generic

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Topical Antibiotics

The most common cause of infections is due to simple wounds in the skin that allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream. It’s difficult to treat any infection without prescription antibiotics, but an OTC, topical antibiotic can go a long way toward preventing infection in the first place. The best may be a triple-antibiotic such as Neosporin, but here again there are generic versions that are equally effective. First-aid creams can also work, but they usually lack the triple combination of bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin B that are the most effective against bacteria on the skin.  Iodine is also effective but creates a sharp, burning sensation when used.

      • Neosporin or generic triple antibiotic
      • First-aid cream
      • Iodine

Bandages and Wound Dressing

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It happens all the time. We cut ourselves with a knife, an ax or saw, or a random piece of metal that just seems to cut across us just right. Wounds that require bandages can be serious if there is profuse bleeding. That’s why it’s wise to have large gauze pads on hand. Bandages both large and small are equally important.

Large bandages with the adhesive strips attached are also a good idea if someone has a sizable wound. Remember, too, that gauze rolls are worth having around to help with wrapping a bandage around an arm, leg, foot, hand or finger. In a pinch, you could always buy a first-aid kit which will usually feature a variety of bandages, although the larger sizes are sometimes missing. Grab a roll of first-aid tape while you’re at it. It helps with the larger gauze bandages.

      • Gauze pads
      • Band-aid strips
      • Large bandages
      • Gauze rolls
      • First-aid tape


Burns can be very serious and can also lead to infection. There are burn kits that can be purchased without a prescription that contain burn creams, topical antibiotics and specially designed bandages developed specifically for burns. These bandages are saturated with antibiotics and lidocaine for topical pain relief. You can also find some of these items on the shelf, but they can be obscure and it seems that only the larger pharmacies carry a range of burn first-aid products.

      • Burn cream
      • Petroleum jelly
      • Non-stick antiseptic gauze

Orthopedic Relief

Many of us have hobbled around on a sprained ankle or knee, and put up with the pain of an injured arm or wrist. While pain relievers help, sometimes we need the added support and re-enforcement of a physical brace or wrap. Some of the braces can be a bit expensive in the $20 to $30 range, but if you ever have such an injury make sure you hold on to that knee or wrist brace for future use. Some orthopedic support can be improvised with elastic wraps and a sling improvised from a pillow case or baby-diaper, but that’s up to you.

      • Knee and ankle braces
      • Elastic wraps
      • Wrist brace
      • Finger splints
      • Arm sling

Eye care

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An eye injury can be as debilitating as a severe toothache. If our eyes are irritated, injured or scratched, the response falls somewhere between pain and panic. Pain relief is a critical consideration; a sterile washcloth soaked in warm water and held over the closed eye can help. From an OTC standpoint, a saline solution to rinse and disinfect the eye is worth considering, along with eye drops, an eye salve which is intended to be used with a soft, cotton eye pad and held in place with either first-aid tape or an eye patch.

      • Saline solution
      • Eye drops
      • Eye salve
      • Eye pads
      • Eye patches


Here’s one we don’t think about as much as we should. A severe toothache or injury to our teeth can make life miserable. There are various things you can assemble to aid any dental problems you have, or you can purchase a dental medical kit with both instructions and some necessary tools and supplies.

      • Floss
      • Cotton
      • Oral aesthetic such as Orajel or Anbesol
      • Temporary cavity filling mixture
      • Dental wax
      • Dental pick

Respiratory Relief

Coughs and sinus congestion are typically the signs of a cold or virus, although allergies can also be a cause. Depending on your family’s overall health, you can consider a range of medicines for respiratory relief. An inhaler can be bought over-the-counter to help with a chronic cough. A cough suppressant can also help to reduce coughing, while a cough-expectorant helps to get fluid and mucous out of the lungs and nasal passages.

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Nasal sprays can also help with sinus congestion, but use them as directed and don’t share them. You’ll just be passing around the cold.  There are throat sprays that provide some topical relief for a severe sore throat. If you or a family member succumbs to allergies, Benadryl or a generic antihistamine could also offer some relief.

        • Inhaler
        • Cough suppressant
        • Cough expectorant
        • Mucous relief tablets
        • Nasal spray
        • Throat spray
        • Benadryl or generic antihistamines

Gastro-intestinal distress

Diarrhea and vomiting can lead to dehydration and generally make us feel exhausted. While Tums or Rolaids or other antacids can help with indigestion, more potent medicines like Emetrol can help to relieve vomiting, while Kaopectate and Pepto-Bismol can relieve diarrhea to some degree. Zantac is somewhat expensive and there are generics for all of these medicines, but if you have a severe problem with indigestion you might want to have some in the medicine cabinet.

        • Tums or Rolaids
        • Emetrol
        • Pepto-Bismol
        • Kaopectate
        • Zantac

Antiseptic disinfectants

Disinfectants are used for cleaning surfaces, first-aid equipment, skin or any other objects or items that could potentially lead to bacterial growth and infection. Some are especially potent, such as iodine and bleach, although bleach is never intended for use on skin or open wounds. Iodine will burn if it enters an open wound, while hydrogen peroxide is gentler and also a strong disinfectant. Many people know that vinegar is a powerful germ-killer and disinfectant, and in an emergency can be used to treat skin or open wounds if no other antiseptics are available.

        • Iodine
        • Hydrogen peroxide
        • White vinegar
        • Bleach

Are there other OTC items you might consider? Of course, but that depends on your situation, your disposition and your location. Iodine tablets are OTC and are intended to protect the thyroid gland in the event of a nuclear incident and radiation. Ipecac syrup causes vomiting and is often used in cases of accidental poisoning. It all gets back to the statistical possibilities of an event or condition. If you live in a place or with a mindset that indicates high-risk from a variety of possibilities, you might want to expand your inventory and consider additional OTC solutions.

What would you add to this list? Share you tips in the section below:

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  1. Apple cider vinegar will stop the runs or vomiting in a few minutes, usually about 20 min for me. 1 or 2 tablespoons in a glass (or half glass) of water, sipped. A couple times I was not able to keep anything down, not even water, so I took a drop or two of the mixture on my tongue, waited a few, another couple drops waited, and in a few minutes no more problem! Works every time. Preferably the apple cider vinegar with the “mother” in it. BTW, it tastes wonderful when you need it like that!

    • While I appreciate apple cider for some of my health issues( post nasal drip being a big one) Loperamide for stomach issues and diarrhea in tablet form is next to a miracle drug that can still be purchased without restriction. Imagine after two weeks of interrupted fresh water seeing our neighbors drinking water from a ditch or the swamp across the street without adequate understanding of how to treat what they are drinking. LAST DITCH and having no doctor to supply antibioics in a live or die scenario… ag Tetracyclene is an option.

  2. Carol: Thanks for the apple cider vinegar tip, had no idea, thanks.

  3. mouth guard for your teeth would be helpful also.

  4. What about expiration dates when stockpiling?

  5. Also in the first aid bandage kit should be maxi pads. They are sterile and can handle larger wounds.

    • Baby diapers for large wounds on shoulders,butt,elbows,knees. I teach this in my wilderness first aid classes.

    • As a wound care RN, I can say without hesitation that all maxi pads would do is soak up the maximum amount of blood. The solution to a bleeder is to stop the bleeding and there are products out there that are used in combat wound care that are a necessity. One product is called Quick Clot. Here is an Amazon link to show the product and the cost.

      The best large sterile dressing to use as a protective barrier to keep large wounds clean and protect it from outside contamination is a dressing called an Abd Pad, short for Abdominal Pad. It is thin but has a large surface area to keep the wound clean.
      So to recap. It is about stopping the blood not sopping up the blood.

      • And if you use the maxi-pad in the same way you would a sterile wound dressing? One on top of another? I don’t see the difference, unless you’re talking about the quick clot style.
        I Iraq we used the Israeli style bandage, but unless you have a DOD or DOH style budget, those, as well as quick-clot are expensive. By all means, buy a few, but for the bulk of things, maxis and johnson&johnson are fine.
        Incidentally, maxis are also good for cleaning out the barrel if a gren launcher.

    • The big canoe size especially.

  6. Cortisone Cream for inflamation from rashes and scrapes…it works on dogs too just be sure to use it sparingly and rub it in well.

    Calamine Lotion for Poison Ivy.

    Preparation H…ought to be self explanatory…but there is a product that is better called Nupercanal…expensive but relieves pain AND itch. For this problem the most helpful ointment is one that is thicker…

    I would choose Merthiolate over Iodine unless this is for purifying water.
    If you are sick enough from radiation poisoning I doubt that iodine pills would be of much help and how would you know how much to take or how little…Maybe I’m wrong on this point but with all the dangers from taking too much I would be very wary of taking iodine pills for radiation.

    And the most obvious treatment necessity SOAP…it cures plenty of ills…As an aside: the Andrews Clinic in Gulf Breeze recommends that patients scrub with Dial antibacterial soap before they come to the hospital for surgery…if you know how to make soap you will be ahead of 90% of any preppers.

    And I’d like to mention the one problem of counting on H2O2 as a good disinfectant is that once it is opened it is devilishly hard to keep it from giving up the extra oxygen atom and what you end up with is a bottle of water…

    For me to live off the grid I would need some bug repellant with about 70% DEET…I’m just so sweet the bugs follow me around…even though I am 71 years young.

    • Merthiolate has mercury in it. I would use either a generic betadyne over merthiolate or mercurachrome. However that’s spelled. Aloe vera is good for burns. And tea tree oil is a good topical antifungal. Tea tree oil, pine tar oil, and eucalyptus oils are great to keep about.

  7. organic apple cider vinegar is also good for an upset stomach – take with warm water and a bit of
    natural honey
    Also for treating gout – take a spoonfull in water in the evening.

    I use iodine for painting on wounds and bruises

    my kit also contains an antibiotic eye ointment and an eye cup for washing out debris

  8. Snake bite kit or insect bite medication. Need to keep a list of your allergies and loved ones allergies on hand at all times.

    • Snake bite kit? Since I was a kid there have been many treatments; from dangerous to ineffective. I can imagine the bite from a copperhead, water moccasin, or rattler would end in death or loss of limb if not treated with anti-venom. I have seen photos that the victim WAS treated with anti-venom and the affected limb still looked like a rotten, black, red, angry, bad-ass wound.

      So, what Snake bite kit?

  9. Keep in mind that aspirin has a shelf life and when it goes bad it will start to smell. I do not use petroleum jelly for burns because a burn needs air to heal and the pj will block the air. If you burn yourself out in the woods you can take mud with or without moss and apply and it will suck the heat out of the burn. There are other meds that have an expiration time limit on them also, so research what you have. Aspen bark will relieve a headache if you chew on it. Stay prepared my friends!

  10. Be careful with your nasal sprays. Most should only be used for 3 days at the most. Otherwise you can get rebound congestion which includes long-term redness and swelling inside the nose and increased runny nose.

    Also witch hazel. It’s a great astringent, helps with acne, takes care of itching from insect bites as well as hemorrhoids.

    Oil of cloves for dental pain.

  11. I would add butterfly bandages and super glue.

  12. I would include a sccissors and tweezers of somd kind.

  13. 1st aid and CPR training would be helpful. so you know How to take care of injuries, illnesses and wounds etc.

  14. Dutch Kinderknecht

    While not precisely medical “supplies”, the following fall into the same general category as splints, slings and braces:

    – reading glasses
    – lens cleaner for all glasses (prescription, reading, sun)
    – glasses repair kit
    – nail clippers (finger and toe, along w/ scissors for the babies’ nails)

    Any good kit will also include at least some of the following, too:
    – needle and tweezers
    – Q Tips (sorry for using the name brand)
    – small jar olive oil
    – concentrated hydrogen peroxide (to be diluted back to proper level for use)
    – sanitary napkins make EXCELLENT trauma dressings (the ambulance service I rode with kept them on all front-line units
    – durable notepad and pen/pencil, for documenting and recording symptoms; times of onset/change/recovery; etc.
    – small vial/bottle of Dawn dishwashing liquid (nearly universal cleaner/disinfectant/decontamination agent)
    – topical solutions and cleaners for known environmental hazards (poison ivy/oak; etc.)

    I am sure there are others I could think of, given time. Good thread and excellent food for thought.

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