For occasional indigestion, I use a little baking soda in half a glass of warm water, but that's not for people with high blood pressure because of its high sodium content. For chronic indigestion I'd recommend any product with magnesium and aluminum hydroxide. Ask your druggist for the cheapest stuff that contains these two
Aspirin is a mainstay of any home medicine kit. I buy the cheapest aspirin I can find. You can also buy aspirin as a powder. Or you can crush regular tablets between two spoons. The crushed or powdered form may be a little less irritating to the stomach.
If anybody in your family has an acne problem, I'd recommend the cheapest product containing benzoyl peroxide.
If I had an allergy to bee stings, I'd definitely keep a couple of syringes with adrenaline around. You'll need a prescription and your doctor will have to show you how to perform an injection. Some people don't think they could ever do such a thing, but you'd be surprised how easy it comes when somebody's life is at stake. More people die from allergic reactions to insect stings each year than do from snake bites.
There's an excellent Emergency Insect Sting Treatment kit available from Hollister Stier Laboratories (P.O. Box 3145, Terminal Annex, Spokane, WA 99220). You'll need a doctor's prescription to purchase one. And if I lived in snake country, I'd have a snake bite kit around. These are also available by prescription from most drugstores.
If I had children in the house, I'd also have a poison antidote kit. The best one I've seen contains a syrup containing activated charcoal and syrup of ipecac. (But don't use ipecac for all poisonings. It can be extremely dangerous in cases of corrosive or irritating chemicals or petroleum products.) The charcoal absorbs the poison, and the ipecac is an emetic—it makes the child throw up. The kit is available without prescription from Bowman Pharmaceuticals (Canton, Ohio 44702). I'd also want to have a poison antidote wheel. You dial in the poison that the person swallowed and it tells you what to do. There's a good one available from SlideGuide (Box 241. Pacific Palisades, CA 90272).
For an occasional case of constipation, I'd have something containing either psyllium or methyl cellulose. Both of these work by increasing the bulk of your stool. They're found in such products as Metamucil and Serutan.
For traveler's diarrhea, I'd have some Pepto-Bismol. There's good evidence that one of its ingredients, bismuth subsalicylate, really works for this annoying problem.
A lot of people report that thiamine, Vitamin B-1, taken orally, will keep away fleas and mosquitoes. There have been no controlled studies on this yet, but the existing evidence is impressive. If I had problems with these critters, I'd keep some thiamine around the house.
For preventing sunburn, anything containing para-amino benzoic acid is good. Pre-Sun is probably the best buy.
A paste made up of meat tenderizer and water is a good treatment for insect stings. And, of course, ice is the best emergency treatment for minor burns, bumps, sprains, and bruises.
To return to the doctor-patient relationship again . . . whose responsibility is it to make drug decisions?
I don't mean that laypeople should never take drugs, but that the decision to take a drug should be their decision. Sometimes it may work the other way. Sometimes a doctor may not want to prescribe a drug that a person wants.
After writing a recent column in which I criticized the widespread use of estrogen for menopausal women, I received a letter from a woman who had been using estrogen.