What to Keep in Your Medicine Cabinet With Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs don't offer much when it comes to major symptoms of fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

For certain symptoms and overlapping conditions, though, OTC medications might help.

The following drugs haven't been tested for these illnesses. But they're known to treat certain symptoms in the general population. As with any treatment, they may or may not work for you.

This article will look at eight OTC medications and why you should keep them in your medicine cabinet.

1

Benadryl for Allergies

Woman with allergies
Martin Leigh / Getty Images

Many people with FMS and ME/CFS have allergies. Some doctors believe these conditions make you more prone to food allergies and allergies that change over time.

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is a good drug to have on hand in case of a serious allergic reaction. Diphenhydramine is the active ingredient in some OTC sleep aids, so it may help with insomnia, too.

If you're already on a regular allergy medication, be sure to ask your doctor/pharmacist about what's safe for you to take if you have a severe reaction.

Severe Reactions

For a severe allergic reaction, especially if you're having trouble breathing, get immediate medical help.

2

Bonine or Dramamine for Dizziness

Dizzy woman portrait

Nick Dolding / Getty Images

Dizziness (vertigo) is another common symptom of FMS and ME/CFS. It can be really debilitating.

Motion sickness drugs can help control dizzy spells. They include:

  • Bonine (meclizine)
  • Dramamine (dimenhydrinate)

These drugs also are antihistamines (allergy medications). Check with your doctor or pharmacist before combining them with other allergy drugs.

Vertigo is the feeling that the world is spinning around you. It's different from lightheadedness.

Lightheaded?

If you frequently get lightheaded upon standing, it may be due to temporary low blood flow to the brain. This is called orthostatic intolerance and it's common in FMS and ME/CFS.

3

Saline Nasal Spray for Congestion

woman using Saline nasal spray

Glow Wellness / Getty Images

Along with allergies, non-allergy rhinitis is a common cause of nasal congestion in FMS and ME/CFS. That congestion can lead to:

All of that can exacerbate your symptoms.

Regular use of a saline nasal spray can help keep sinuses clear. If saline isn't enough, ask your doctor about prescription nasal sprays such as Nasarel (flunisolide) or Flonase (fluticasone).

Sjögren's Syndrome

Many people with FMS and ME/CFS have Sjögren's syndrome. Its primary symptoms are dry eyes and mouth. But it can also dry the sinuses. Let your doctor know if your sinuses frequently feel dry, especially if your mouth or eyes do, as well.

4

Anti-Itch Creams to Prevent Scratching

Person scratching their wrist

LEA PATERSON / Getty Images

Itching can be an especially annoying symptom of FMS and ME/CFS. Sometimes, your skin might itch for no obvious reason. And when your skin is dry or irritated you'll likely feel a stronger itch than someone else would.

Itching is not only annoying, it can be an added sleep disruption. In addition, vigorous scratching can trigger a pain response in people with FMS.

Anti-itch creams or sprays that contain diphenhydramine (the drug in Benadryl) can stop itches caused by bug bites, allergies, or other skin irritants.

For the itch caused by dry skin, try a fragrance-free lotion. For an unexplained itch, you may find relief from a cold compress or gentle rubbing.

5

Anti-Diarrhea Medication

sick woman in the bathroom

Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Diarrhea, bloating, and discomfort are common in people with FMS and ME/CFS. That's because both conditions are tied to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Three of the four IBS types involve diarrhea.

Anti-diarrhea drugs like Imodium (loperamide) can help control this symptom. Diarrhea can dehydrate you, so get plenty of fluids.

If you still have diarrhea after taking Imodium, or you need Imodium regularly, talk to your doctor. You might need to look into dietary and lifestyle changes that help manage IBS symptoms.

6

Constipation Remedies

A young woman is doubled over on the toilet, clutching her side.


globalmoments / Getty Images

Three of four IBS types also involve constipation. If you tend to get backed up, keep OTC laxatives and stool softeners on hand.

Fiber supplements are also important for keeping bowel movements regular.

Long-term use of laxatives can make constipation worse. If you need them often, tell your doctor. You may benefit from prescription medications and/or dietary changes.

4 Types of IBS

  • IBS-C (constipation-predominant)
  • IBS-D (diarrhea-predominant)
  • IBS-M (mixed constipation and diarrhea, also called IBS-A for alternating)
  • IBS-U (unclassified/indeterminate pattern)
7

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Hand of a psoriasis patient close-up. Psoriatic arthritis. Joint deformation and inflammation on the skin

Iri-s / Getty Images

FMS and ME/CFS are believed to involve neuroinflammation (in the brain and spinal cord). Even so, studies suggest non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) aren't very effective against FMS and ME/CFS pain.

However, many of the conditions common in people with FMS and ME/CFS are helped by NSAIDs. These include arthritis, lupus, and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).

Also, it's also important to treat pain from injuries aggressively so it doesn't trigger a flare. These drugs may also take the edge off of muscle pain when you do have a flare.

For those reasons, it pays to keep a ready supply of OTC NSAIDs such as:

8

Acetaminophen

White woman holding her nose, her eyes are closed as though she's in pain. She's wearing a cream-colored shirt and the white wall behind her has a bit of shadow creeping in the upper left hand side of the frame.

Daria Kulkova / Getty

Acetaminophen is the drug in:

  • Tylenol
  • Generic non-aspirin pain relievers
  • Dozens of combination cold-and-flu products

Unlike NSAIDs, it's believed to work by altering pain signals. It doesn't relieve inflammation.

Again, this drug probably won't do a lot for FMS or ME/CFS pain. But it can help with pain from other conditions and day-to-day injuries.

Overdose Warning

Some combination opioids contain acetaminophen, such as Vicodin (hydrocodone/acetaminophen). Don't take more acetaminophen without approval from a healthcare provider. It can lead to overdose and liver failure.

Summary

While OTC drugs aren't very useful for the major symptoms of FMS and ME/CFS. But some of them can help with specific symptoms or overlapping conditions.

  • Benedryl can help in case of extreme allergies.
  • Motion-sickness drugs may help with dizziness.
  • Saline nasal spray can help relieve dry sinuses.
  • Anti-itch cream can soothe an itch.
  • Anti-diarrhea drugs and constipation drugs can relieve IBS symptoms.
  • NSAIDs and Tylenol may help with pain from injuries or overlapping conditions.

Always check with your healthcare provider before taking medication, even OTC drugs. It's also a good idea to run them by your pharmacist. They can help prevent negative interactions and ensure your safety.

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Article Sources
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