Dina Bates, a 20-year-old college sophomore living in Boston, was three weeks into using a new medicine for a skin infection when she suddenly broke out in hives—at midnight. She wasn’t having trouble breathing, so didn’t race to an emergency room, but instead spent a miserable night, scratching as the hives moved from place to place on her body. Cynthia Reilly, B.S. Pharm., the director of the Medication Safety and Quality Division at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists in Bethesda, Maryland, says that Dina, along with millions of others, could be spared the discomfort of mild allergic reactions by keeping oral diphenhydramine (that’s the generic name for Benadryl; virtually all pharmacies carry both versions) in the medicine cabinet.
A number of non-prescription drugs, says Reilly, “are great products to keep in the house because the last thing you want to do is [have to] head to the pharmacy when you’re already experiencing the symptoms.” They can also save you a costly and unnecessary trip to the doctor.
Reilly suggests shoppers look for generic or store-brand products, “which are just as good [as brand-name products] and can greatly reduce your costs,” she adds, noting that drugstore pharmacists can help you choose the right basic non-prescription products to have on hand. Here are five experts we spoke to suggest you add to your medicine cabinet:
Photo: Tom Merton/Getty Images