Best Over-The-Counter Medicines for Common Problems
When you’re not feeling great, over-the-counter medicines are lifesavers. They de-stuff your nose when breathing is tough, keep coughs at bay, stop a fever, say buh-bye to heartburn, and more. And having a well-stocked medicine cabinet can ensure that you’re ready for whatever minor ills life’s going to throw at you today.
So, yes, relief might be closer than you think. You can find some really good over-the-counter medications to treat common conditions, including:
- Cold and Flu
- Pain + Fever
- GI Distress
- Temporary sleep problems
While it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor, especially if problems persist or cannot be treated by OTC options, these 7 medicines are a great place to start.
When You Can’t Stop Sneezing from Allergies
Take: Fexofenadine 24 Hour Allergy Relief or Cetirizine 24 Hour Allergy Relief
It’s all about getting ahead of allergy symptoms, like sneezing and itchy and watery nose and eyes. To do that, you can take certain allergy medications when you have symptoms, as a short-term preventative (like if you’re planning a hike or a visit to a friend who has cats), or every day during allergy season, advises the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Antihistamines work by blocking chemicals that cause the stuffy-headed allergy symptoms, called histamines. The beauty of both the fexofenadine and cetirizine formulation is that they work for 24-hours, so you can feel good night and day. They are also non-drowsy, allowing you to feel on top of your game.
When You Have a Terrible Cold
Take: Nasal Decongestant or Mucus Relief & Cough Suppressant
Sinus pressure can make your face feel painfully full and trigger a headache, while congestion makes it tough to breathe. That’s why taking Nasal Decongestant is key because it contains phenylephrine, a decongestant that’s similar to the one found in Sudafed PE. The OTC med reduces blood flow to nasal membranes, which shrinks them to relieve pressure and congestion.
On the other hand, if your main problem is coughing, Mucus Relief & Cough Suppressant not only helps control coughs but also prompts you to loosen up phlegm and cough it up, something that’s equally satisfying as it is helpful in making you feel better.
When You Have a Headache
Take: Extra Strength Headache Relief
A headache is bad enough, putting a damper on your day and causing you to cancel plans. (And you were so excited to have plans.) A migraine is on another level, maybe even forcing you to go lay down in a dark, quiet room with a cool towel draped over your forehead. For either situation, grab Extra Strength Headache Relief as soon as the pain starts. Trying to wait out a migraine and hoping it will go away on its own can make it harder to treat later. So, spare yourself the agony and get back to feeling like your go-getter self again. This med contains the combination of acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory or NSAID), and caffeine, the same cocktail of headache fighters you’d find in Excedrin. If migraines are becoming more frequent or difficult to treat, see your doctor.
When You Have a Fever
Take: Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen
You’re in bed in sweats and are piled up with at least three blankets. You’ve got the chills and muscle aches and just generally feel ‘blah.’ It’s a fever. You have two great choices here: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Advil). Both options acts fever reducers and pain relievers, making these ideal medicine cabinet staples.
You’ll want to keep both around at all times, not only for the occasional fever, but also for those times you go too hard at the gym, have PMS, or are dealing with joint pain. Pro tip: Alternate between using acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Since both are metabolized in different ways by the body, this trick can more effectively reduce pain while minimizing the risk of side effects, according to Harvard Medical School.
When You Have Diarrhea
Take: Stomach Relief
Was it something you ate? Who knows, but you need to find a bathroom, stat. Stomach Relief contains bismuth subsalicylate (the active in Pepto-Bismol) to coat your stomach to calm your GI tract, reduce inflammation, and relieve symptoms. Plus, rather than a liquid, these come in easy-to-take softgels, so you don’t have to worry about drinking something unappealing when you already don’t feel well. Oh, and even if you don’t have diarrhea, Stomach Relief also works on heartburn, indigestion, nausea, gas, and that feeling of being uncomfortably full.
When You Have Heartburn
That bowl of pasta or super spicy taco was fun…while you were eating it. But now heartburn and indigestion have taken over and you feel a burning sensation, nauseous, and bloated. You need Antacid. With magnesium oxide, this OTC helps neutralize acid to decrease heartburn while also addressing stomach pains with a mild laxative that helps you go. (But don’t worry, it won’t have you sprinting for the bathroom.) One perk? They’re also fortified with calcium to support bone and heart health.
When You Can’t Sleep After a Trip
Take: Sleep Aid
You had a fun adventure or were out for work, and how that you’re home, the jet lag is fierce and you can’t get to sleep. You might consider taking melatonin. Melatonin is a sleep-promoting hormone produced by your brain, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Certain factors can throw off melatonin production, including jet lag and shift work, as well as everyday habits like staring at your phone before bed. (The blue light from electronic devices suppresses melatonin.) On the other hand, taking a small dose of a melatonin supplement, like Sleep Aid, at bedtime does two things. One, it makes you drowsy, so you physically feel ready to doze off. And two, it can help shift your circadian rhythm, making it easier to fall asleep at the right time in the days to come. Soon, you’ll be back on your normal schedule.