Selecting appropriate medications for first aid kits

Important Considerations

When stocking and using a first aid kit, keep these things in mind.

Combination Drugs

Combination drugs are those that treat more than one symptom. These medications usually have more than one active ingredient.

Examples of combination drugs include:

  • Pain relievers combined with cough suppressants, decongestants, and antihistamines
  • Pain relievers combined with sleep aids
  • Acetaminophen combined with aspirin and caffeine
  • Ibuprofen combined with pseudoephedrine
  • Decongestant combined with analgesic
  • Decongestant combined with an antihistamine

It’s generally best to leave these out of a first aid kit, favoring options that have only a single active ingredient.

There are several reasons for this:

  • Expiration dates: Combination drugs only last as long as the drug that expires first. If two drugs with different shelf lives are combined, they’ll expire together when the first is past its prime. If you purchase the two drugs separately, you’ll only have to replace one when the expiration date comes.
  • Single drugs are cheaper: Combination drugs are also less likely to be sold as generics, which are a proven way to get cheaper medications. In addition, milligram for milligram, combination drugs are almost always more expensive than singles.
  • Take only what you need: You don’t always want all the effects of a combination drug. For example, if you need a drug for fever and all you have is a drug that combines a fever-reducer with an antihistamine, you may end up feeling drowsy when you didn’t need to. Stocking singles means you can combine them when necessary or take them individually.

Drug-to-Drug Interactions

There are certain drugs you should never take together due to the risk of adverse effects. This consideration is especially important for people who take medication regularly.

For instance, drug-to-drug interactions can occur between NSAIDs and other medications, such as:

  • Aspirin
  • Antihypertensives, used to treat high blood pressure
  • Antidepressants, used to treat depression and other conditions
  • Antirheumatics, used to treat certain inflammatory diseases
  • Chemotherapy
  • Corticosteroids, used to treat asthma, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and other conditions
  • Some herbal remedies, such as St. John’s Wort and Ginkgo biloba

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