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What should I put in a medication
emergency kit? Consumer-Report-Logo

Advice and Recommendations from Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs


Our medical experts recommend an antihistamine to treat common allergic reactions, (such as Benadryl or generics), an antacid (such as Tums) for heartburn , a pain reliever (such as Advil or generic ibuprofen), something for an upset stomach and diarrhea (such as Pepto-Bismol), antiseptic wipes, an antibiotic ointment, bandages, eyewash solution, gauze, and hydrocortisone cream. If you don’t want to assemble this list on your own, you can also buy a kit from your local drugstore already stocked with those essentials.

For your prescription medications, consider ordering 60- or 90-day supplies so that you’re more likely to have extras on-hand. (That can also save you money. Just remember that drugs expire, so check them periodically.) Store your kit where kids can’t get to it. And make sure that you can access it quickly, in case you need to evacuate in a hurry. Once you’ve gathered your supplies, pack the items in easy-to-carry containers, clearly label the containers, and store them in a kit where they are easily accessible.

“Depending on how many prescriptions a person is taking, the need for special storage might be a factor to consider,” Selig Corman R.Ph., consultant pharmacist and director of professional affairs at the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, said. You might also ask your insurance company to assist you in obtaining and maintaining enough medication and supplies to have on hand.



Check our tips for managing multiple medications (PDF). Plus, check out what the CDC recommends putting in their Emergency Preparedness Kit.






Be sure to always fill prescriptions on the first day you become eligible for a refill, rather than waiting until the day you run out. If you are able to obtain an emergency supply, be sure to establish a plan for rotating your supply so it remains up-to-date. For example, “I, personally, take six different medications,” Corman said. “It might make sense that every month when I get refills, transfer a five-day supply into a special container and rotate that accordingly.

Corman also recommends keeping a list of your drugs with you that includes the drug name, strength, dosage form, and regimen for each medication. You might consider storing an electronic copy of the information on a flash drive that you keep with you.

If you and your family have special medical needs, you can build a more sophisticated kit, for example, one that contains hearing aids with extra batteries, an Epinephrine auto-injector, glasses, contact lenses, or syringes.

Check your emergency kit regularly and dispose of and replace any out-of-date supplies. Throw out any damaged medications or pills that are wet or look or smell different, as they could be contaminated by moisture.

—Ginger Skinner




Editor's Note:

This article and related materials are made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by the multistate settlement of consumer-fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin (gabapentin).





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