10 OTC health and personal care products popular with older adults
Certain health and personal care products are long-standing best sellers at the drugstore. Some of these over-the-counter (OTC) items may be used in many ways. Others are classics with a history of delivering healthier results.
Ready to start shopping? See the 10 OTC items that are often popular with many people over age 65.
1. Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a household staple for many people. Just be aware that providers no longer recommend using it to disinfect wounds on the skin. Why? Because it may damage skin tissue1 and may even stop healing.
That said, there are many other uses for hydrogen peroxide, including:
- Cleaning contact lenses.2 Hydrogen peroxide solutions are generally preservative-free, so they may be good choices for people who have allergies. But hydrogen peroxide needs to be used alongside a neutralizer or it may cause burning or stinging.
- Removing ear wax.3 Put a little 3% hydrogen peroxide in the ears and leave it there for 15 to 30 minutes. It will foam. Then flush it out with lukewarm water.
- Removing stains. Hydrogen peroxide may help keep granite or marble countertops free of stains. Use it alone or mix it into a paste with baking soda.4
2. Isopropyl alcohol
Also known as rubbing alcohol, this classic can be used in many ways, including:5
- Disinfecting small cuts and wounds
- Relieving minor muscle aches
- Removing ink stains from clothing, rugs and furniture, by dipping a cotton swab in alcohol and gently lifting the stain4
3. Fluoride toothpaste
Fluoride helps protect the teeth from cavities and helps strengthen tooth enamel so look for toothpaste with fluoride. And make sure to pick a toothpaste with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal, which means it is safe and effective.6
4. Personal cleansing wipes
People use premoistened wipes after using the bathroom to help ensure a thorough clean. They’re also soft and gentle on irritated skin.
If a person has incontinence, the wipes may also be helpful for quick cleaning. Some personal cleaning wipes are not flushable, so may need to be thrown in the trash after use.
Ibuprofen is used to treat fever, arthritis and mild to moderate pain.7 According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), generic medications use the same key ingredient and work in the same way in the body as name-brand drugs so you may want to consider generic medications.8
Ibuprofen, like most nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), may upset the stomach. To help prevent this, take it with food or milk. And check in with the pharmacist or provider about any potential interactions between ibuprofen and other medications, vitamins or supplements you may be taking.7
Having a fancy toothbrush isn’t necessary to keep teeth clean, according to the ADA. But it may be better to use a toothbrush with soft bristles, as they are gentler on the gums. Replace the toothbrush every 3 to 4 months, or when the bristles seem worn out.9
7. Bladder control pads
For those who leak urine or have the urge to go all the time and don’t always make it to the restroom, bladder control pads can be essential. Unlike sanitary pads, bladder control pads are made to absorb urine. This helps keep the skin dry and less irritated. These pads also hold more fluid so you're less likely to show leaks.10
8. Anti-diarrheal caplets
Diarrhea may last weeks, but it usually runs its course in a couple of days. For short-term diarrhea, also known as acute diarrhea, OTC anti-diarrheal medication may stop it.11
Talk to a health care provider before using anti-diarrheal medicine if your stools are bloody or accompanied by a fever. Those may be signs that a person may have an infection. And always let the provider know if the diarrhea continues for more than 2 days. It could be a sign of an infection or irritable bowel syndrome.11
Acetaminophen is used to treat mild to moderate pain, including muscle aches and joint aches from arthritis. It may also reduce fever.12
Acetaminophen is a different type of pain reliever than ibuprofen and other NSAIDs. It may cause fewer stomach problems than other pain medicines.13
But as with ibuprofen, it’s important to ask a provider or pharmacist about any interactions acetaminophen might have with other medications you are taking. It does interact with blood thinners. And if a person is also taking cold medicine with acetaminophen, they may be getting a double dose.12
10. Cough drops
They're great to have around for cold and flu season — or, really, anytime — especially ones that contain menthol. This ingredient may soothe the tickling sensation people sometimes get when they have a cough or sore throat.14
For many people age 65 and older, these 10 items are helpful to have around the house. The next time you’re at the drugstore, check them out and see if they suit your household’s needs.