Nonprescription medications in the home medicine cabinet could save a trip to the doctor. The January issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter lists more than a dozen over-the-counter medications that can help manage minor ailments.
Swim-Ear, Auro-Dri -- These products can help after swimming and also may be helpful in treating mild outer ear infections that result from swimming or water getting in the ear. The acetic acid in these products helps re-establish the ear's normal environment and discourages yeast and bacterial growth.
Debrox, Murine Earwax Removal and Mack's Wax Away eardrops -- The active ingredient in these products, carbamide peroxide, is ideal for dissolving wax in the outer ear. Wax is then flushed out using warm water in a bulb syringe.
Chloraseptic spray -- This spray helps relieve mild-to-moderate sore throat pain. After the initial taste wears off, the spray can be quite soothing to the throat for several hours.
Famotidine (Pepcid AC, others) -- Pepcid is one of several H-2-receptor blockers that eases stomach upset and indigestion. It reduces the production of stomach acid. Other drugs in this category are ranitidine (Zantac) and cimetidine (Tagamet). For adults over age 50, an evaluation for underlying medical conditions is recommended before using these products on an ongoing basis.
Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) -- This medication is helpful for stomach upset, heartburn and diarrhea, including traveler's diarrhea.
Loperamide (Imodium) -- This is an excellent drug for diarrhea. Intermittent use can help those who have diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome. Loperamide shouldn't be used for chronic undiagnosed diarrhea. Changes in bowel habits can signal an underlying health concern such as a tumor or infection.
1 percent hydrocortisone (Cortaid, others) -- The strongest nonprescription hydrocortisone, this cream can soothe minor skin irritations, inflammation and rashes. It can be used almost anywhere except right around the eye.
Loratadine (Claritin, Alavert, others) -- This new generation of nonprescription antihistamines generally is less sedating and causes fewer side effects than previous-generation products. For instance, urinary retention in older men with enlarged prostates occurs with older agents such as Benadryl and Chlor-Trimeton, but this is not typically seen with loratadine use.
Docosanol (Abreva) -- This product may help shorten the life of a cold sore by a day. When applied at the earliest point of an outbreak, it may even help prevent the cold sore blister from forming.