A well-stocked prepper home pharmacy ensures that you will not need to run out to the store to purchase a medication when you are feeling under the weather or when it may not be safe to venture out. Consult your medical provider to determine exactly what medications you should keep in your prepper medicine cabinet.
What are the best medications to include in a well-stocked prepper home pharmacy? The best drugs to stock in your prepper medicine cabinet include a combination of over-the-counter and prescription meds. You should include pain relievers, antihistamines, anti-diarrheal, antiemetics, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and allergy medications. Be sure to include any prescription drugs that you are taking.
How Much Medication Should I Store for Emergencies?
When it comes to storing medications for emergencies it is impossible to come up with a “one-size-fits-all” answer to determine the right amount to store. Consider your worst-case scenario and calculate the number of meds required to adequately take care of your needs, then stock a little extra to share.
While many medications are still good after the expiration date on the bottle, fresh is ideal. Therefore it is wise to only purchase drugs in reasonable quantities. Overstocking will likely result in waste and may not be the best use of your money.
We personally re-stock our supplies every couple of years and dispose of the old medication to ensure that we always have a fresh supply. We stock our little prepper pharmacy at a “worst-case-scenario-rate” and are very grateful they have not been needed.
It is reasonable to stock enough over-the-counter medications to last a year or two. Prescription medications are much more difficult to obtain and you may be lucky to have one or two months as a backup supply.
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Plan for the Unique Needs of Family Members
Before stocking your prepper medicine cabinet, sit down and carefully evaluate the unique needs of each member of your family. Consider the following questions.
- Does anyone in your family have allergies to any medications?
- Do you need to store infant or child formulations of drugs?
- Does anyone have special needs due to a chronic medical condition?
- Does anyone suffer from seasonal allergies?
- Does anyone have an issue with pain management?
Stock appropriately for the individuals who will be using the medications. Remember your supply is for your everyday needs, not just for an emergency.
Ideal Storage Conditions for Medication
Generally, medication will store best in a cool, dry, dark location in the original unopened packaging. The bathroom medicine cabinet is not the best place to store your meds due to the heat and humidity. Store all medication out of reach of children.
Drug addiction is a real concern in our society. Some addicts are easy to identify but others you may never suspect. Consider storing prescription medication in a locked safe or well-hidden location to protect both the drug seeker as well as your critical medications.
Actual Shelf-Life of Medication
It is always best to keep a stock of fresh medications. However, it may be important to understand the actual shelf life in the event you need to make a decision to use older medications during a crisis.
Cynthia Koelker, MD, author of Armageddon Medicine, wrote an outstanding reference article for the Journal of Civil Defense entitled, Expired Medications: What You Need to Know. She quotes The Medical Letter, Vol. 44, Issue 1142, October 28, 2002, which states “Many drugs stored under reasonable conditions retain 90% of their potency for at least 5 years after the expiration date on the label, and sometimes much longer.”
We should expect a gradual loss in potency over time. If the appearance and color of the pills have not changed the medication is likely safe to consume. Storage temperature and packaging will significantly affect the actual shelf life. Liquid preparations are not as stable as tablets and capsules and generally have a shorter, useable shelf-life.
Best Over-the-Counter Medications to Stockpile
Over the counter medications are well worth stocking. Many of them were originally prescription medications and some still are but in larger strengths. Most preppers are on a budget, so take advantage of coupons and store sales to stock up. Keep in mind that all medications should be stored in cool, dark, and dry locations to maximize their effectiveness.
These over the counter medications can be used to treat many conditions including: headache, fever, sore throats, dehydration, earache, menstrual cramps, heartburn, arthritis, ulcers, diarrhea, allergies, hives, congestion, dizziness, mild anxiety, nausea, vomiting, poison ivy, athlete’s foot, ringworm, eczema, insomnia, backache, gout, diaper rash, yeast infections, and many more common illnesses.
It is easy and relatively inexpensive to stock your prepper medicine cabinet with useful over-the-counter medications. Carefully consider the needs of your family members and include the meds that you regularly use. This is the list of medications that we keep in our stash. Yours may be a bit different.
Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
Ibuprofen can be used to treat pain and inflammation, including headaches, earaches, sore throats, sinus pain, stiff neck, muscle strains, menstrual cramps, arthritis and back pain. It is useful for reducing fevers but is not good for most stomach pains.
Acetaminophen is used for many of the same conditions as Ibuprofen, however, it will not reduce inflammation. It can be rotated on a 3-hour basis with Ibuprofen when pain is severe. Combined with ibuprofen it will work similarly to codeine to reduce more severe pain. This should only be done on the advice of a Doctor.
In addition to Ibuprofen and acetaminophen, you should stock Aspirin. Aspirin has been used since the late 19th century as a pain reliever, fever reducer, and anti-inflammatory. However, it also has the ability to thin the blood. So it can be used to treat people who need anti-coagulants or have heart problems. Read this article, How Aspirin and Willow Bark are Similar, for more information.
An inexpensive antihistamine, diphenhydramine is primarily used for drainage due to respiratory infections and nasal allergies, in both adults and children. It is also indicated for allergies, hives, and itching, including itchy rashes such as poison ivy. This will make some people sleepy.
Loratadine (Claritin, Alavert)
This is an antihistamine that is useful for treating allergies. It does not make people sleepy. Stock dissolving tablets for children and the elderly.
A very effective over the counter medication for diarrhea. It has been said that a single Imodium, throw into a swimming pool, could turn the water to cement, but this is not true! Stock it in both adult and children’s strengths.
Pseudoephedrine is effective at relieving congestion in both the upper and lower respiratory tract due to infections, allergies, chemical irritations, and mild asthma or bronchitis. Not recommended for children under 6.
Meclizine (Bonine, Dramamine)
This antiemetic drug is available in both over the counter medications and by prescription. It relieves nausea, vomiting, motion sickness, and vertigo-like dizziness. I use the over the counter form for vertigo and it helps.
Ranitidine (Zantac) Omeprazole 20-40mg (Prilosec) Cimetidine 200-800mg (Tagamet)
All of these over the counter medications are available for the treatment of heartburn, ulcers, and other acid-reducing conditions. Ranitidine is inexpensive and well-tolerated. If you find yourself experiencing stomach pains from prolonged use of a pain reliever, these medicines can help protect your stomach.
The 1% version of hydrocortisone is the strongest over the counter steroid cream available. It is safe for use in both adults and children in treating inflamed and/or itchy rashes such as eczema, poison ivy, diaper rash, and other minor genital irritations.
Triple Antibiotic Ointment (Neosporin, Bacitracin, Bactroban)
Triple antibiotic ointment is normally applied at the site of injuries to prevent infections. It should be noted that triple antibiotic ointment won’t cure a deep infection.
Clotrimazole (Lotrimin), Miconazole (Monistat)
These antifungal medications can be used to treat Athlete’s feet (tinea pedis), vaginal infections (monilia), ringworm, and jock itch (tinea cruris).
Mucinex (Also known as Glyceryl Guaiacolate or formerly Guaifenesin)
This is a drug, which reduces the thickness of mucus secretions. In respiratory infections, it helps your body to expel phlegm. It is available in liquid or tablet form.
This is useful for the treatment of poison ivy or oak. These conditions may become much more common after a disaster, due to spending more time outdoors.
While this would not normally be listed with over the counter medications, it can be effective for rehydration.
Multivitamins may not be considered by many as a medication, but in a survival situation, getting proper nutrients from food may not be possible. Therefore, individuals can supplement their diet with multivitamin pills to prevent malnutrition.
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How to Stockpile Prescription Medications
It is possible that your supply of prescription medications may be interrupted when disaster strikes. If you are taking medications due to a chronic medical condition, it would be wise to plan in advance to take care of your needs.
The best option is to take the necessary steps to improve your health with the ultimate goal of reducing your dependence on prescription medications. In the meantime, build a supply with enough medication to see you through a crisis.
Methods for Stocking Up
Work with your medical provider and build a backup supply of critical prescription medications. Explain to him or her the reason you are concerned and see what options may be open to you. Be honest and always follow his or her recommendations. Make sure that you keep your supply rotated.
Medical providers will not give you any type of controlled substances (drugs that cause mental or physical dependence) for “emergency preparedness.” Don’t even bother asking. In this post, we are talking about medications for chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease.
Doctors are frequently given free samples of medications from the drug companies. If he or she provides you with a few samples, make sure that you keep filling your prescription on schedule. You can easily get a backup supply of 30-60 days this way.
Insurance companies will usually refill your prescription every 25 days. If you faithfully pick up your new prescription at 25 days, by the end of the year you will have a 60-day backup supply of your critical medications. If you use a mail-order pharmacy you may be able to get a 90 day supply of your medication. Be sure to refill it as early as allowable.
You can also ask your health care provider to give you a prescription for an extra month or two that you pay for in cash. This is one way you may be able to get around the limits enforced by your health insurance.
Stockpiling Antibiotics for Disaster Preparedness
The decision to store antibiotics should be carefully thought through. Antibiotics can only be legally used under the direction of a health care provider licensed to dispense the drug. They will not do anything to help a viral infection, but they can save lives.
We strongly encourage you not to use antibiotics except under the direction of a qualified health care provider. The antibiotics you stockpile are only for use when competent medical care is not available and you do not have other safe options available to you.
An illness must be accurately diagnosed and the correct antibiotic given in order for it to help the condition. Antibiotics have side effects that need to be carefully weighed before taking. The safest source for obtaining antibiotics is from your health care provider.
Best Antibiotics for Emergency Preparedness
Cynthia Koelker, MD wrote an article for the Journal of Civil Defense entitled Seven Antibiotics to Stockpile and Why. In this article, she lists her top 3 antibiotics to store for a crisis where medical care is unavailable. The best antibiotics to store for emergency preparedness are Cephalexin, Ciprofloxacin, and Metronidazole. These 3 antibiotics will cover 90% of the common bacterial infections.
Cephalexin treats most of the same bacteria that amoxicillin does, but it is stronger against Staph aureus. It is commonly used to treat upper respiratory infections, skin infections, ear infections, and urinary tract infections.
Ciprofloxacin is used for bacterial infections. It may be prescribed to treat anthrax, typhoid fever, abdominal infections, urinary tract infections, prostate infections, bone infections, pneumonia, and bronchitis.
Metronidazole treats very specific infections and is used to treat parasitic infections like Giardia in the small intestine, amebic dysentery, and amebic liver abscesses. It will also treat infections of the stomach, liver, skin, brain, respiratory tract, and vagina.
Cynthia J. Koelker, MD blogs at Armageddon Medicine and states that using these three alone or in combination would cover around 90% of the infections physicians commonly encounter, as well as several less-likely threats (including anthrax and C. diff).
Specialty Drugs for Specific Risks
Depending on your specific risk factors, you may have unique events that you are preparing for which require specialty drugs.
Potassium Iodide (KI)
Potassium iodide tablets are taken during a nuclear event to prevent the thyroid gland from absorbing radiation. This is a must-have for preppers who are preparing to survive a nuclear event. It has a long shelf life and should remain stable for many years if stored in a cool, dry, dark location in the original container.
Oseltamivir is an antiviral medication and requires a prescription. It is used to treat or prevent influenza. You may want to consider purchasing oseltamivir if you are prepping for a pandemic.
Zanamivir is an anti-viral powder. It is inhaled orally. Zanamivir is used to both treat or prevent the flu and requires a prescription to purchase.
Consult your healthcare provider to assess the benefits, costs, and risks of stocking these anti-viral medications. They may or may not be right for you.
Creating the Perfect Prepper Medication Stockpile
Now you have some basic information to help you get started building your everyday stockpile of important medications.
- Go through all of the medications that you currently have and dispose of outdated drugs.
- Create a detailed list of all of the medications that your family may need and reasonable amounts for each. Be sure to include special formulations for babies and elderly members.
- Consult your health care provider to discuss any special needs of family members. Explore the possibility of obtaining additional prescription medications for chronic conditions or stocking antibiotics for emergencies.
- Decide where to store your medications. You may keep opened bottles in a medicine cabinet, or with first aid supplies, and the backup supplies in a cool, dry, dark, secure location.
- Purchase a fresh supply of over-the-counter medications at your local pharmacy.
A well-stocked medicine cabinet can come in handy and prevent last-minute trips to the store when you are not feeling well. When disaster strikes and supplies are limited, your stash of medications can be a lifesaver.
Adding to your Emergency Kit
Although the emergency kit that you carry needs to be small and light enough so that you can bring it with you regardless of your location, there is no “written in stone” composition for an emergency kit. Note — it is recommended that all emergency kits contain the following items, regardless of what else you decide to put into them: a good multitool, a smoke hood, a flashlight, some kind of small prying tool, and a thin but tough length of cord.
Once you have moved beyond the most basic level of emergency kit construction, you will need to be prepared to spend a certain amount of money to secure your safety better. Remember that well-designed tools made out of quality materials cost a bit more, but they are also far less likely to fail you in a life or death situation – the author has witnessed cheap Chinese screwdrivers shear off on their first attempt to loosen a screw, for example. A good middle of the road emergency kit, one which will serve you much better than the stripped-down version listed as the bare minimum in the previous article, might consist of the following items:
- A waterproof LED flashlight – this will not go out due to flat batteries, and if it is waterproof, you can use it in far more situations than one which will short out in the rain or if dropped into an inch of water on the floor.
- A miniature pry bar – these may be standard pry bar shapes in a small size or a small shaped piece of metal with the edge adapted for several different prying tasks. You can open doors, windows, and access panels with this tool.
- A cheap whistle – being able to signal other people that you are nearby can prove invaluable when rescuers are in the vicinity. A whistle carries farther and penetrates more background noise than a human voice.
- A butane lighter and a book or small box of waterproof matches – the ability to be able to start fires for warmth or signaling can save your life in many situations.
- A good quality multitool – SOG and Victorinox are probably your best bets for multitools, as the former includes the U.S. manufactured parts and the latter are still made in Switzerland. High-grade tool steel that will not break under normal use is used in their manufacture, whereas other brands are made in China, where fragile pot metal is often used for cheapness.
- A good quality smoke hood – this should be a full mask or a head-enclosing bag with a filter. This kind of hood will provide better protection against smoke and cannot slip off as the partial face respirator can. It is also better for those with facial hair.
- Emergency medical technician shears – for cutting through flexible substances quickly.
- A length of tough cord, such as monofilament fishing line or paracord.
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