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Inside My Purse: My Essentials for Dealing with Illness On the Go


Living in a big city and commuting every day to and from work automatically means that I need some sort of purse or bag to carry the daily essentials. When, like me, you are dealing with chronic medical issues, these essentials can be a little different.

Being ill means that these items become even more essential — the ones you absolutely can’t go anywhere without, in case of a medical emergency or just to deal with the day-to-day effects of illness.

I’m sure this varies from person to person, depending on each individual condition, but here is a look inside my purse at what I never leave my apartment without, in order to manage my day-to-day needs:

1. Water bottle — One of the medications that I take completely dehydrates me, so I need to compensate. I always make sure that any purse or bag I purchase passes that “water bottle” test. If it can’t fit my go-to refillable bottle (currently a mint-colored S’well bottle that I scored at a sample sale), then it’s not for me.

2. Lip balm — Along the same lines, dry mouth means dried-out lips, so I always have several lip products in my bag. The best, though, in my experience has been Maybelline’s Baby Lips. They’re soft, have a little color, and instantly hydrate.

3. Gum or lozenges — Since I have severe acid reflux, my throat is almost always in pain or burning. To combat this, I carry an array of gum, sucking candies and throat lozenges for temporary relief.

4. Gluten-free granola bar — Or a similar, compact snack. Since I have several dietary restrictions and need to keep my blood sugar up, I always stick some sort of snack in my bag, whether that’s a bar, special cookies or piece of fruit, just in case I’m somewhere without me-friendly foods.

5. Cardigan or light sweater — Especially if I’m going to work, where the air conditioning is always on full-blast, I bring one of my many Target cardigans with me, in case I get cold. With chronic illness, any small thing you can do to feel comfortable goes a long way.

6. Medicine — This ranges from Lactaid pills (if I decide I’m feeling up to eating some dairy) to extra anti-acid medication in case it’s a particularly bad day, to my mid-day doses of various prescriptions. Since this can get confusing, I always sort out my pills at the beginning of each week, so that each day it’s easy for me to grab what I need when I’m heading out.

7. Insurance card — This seems obvious, but sometimes things like insurance cards get left at home even though you swear you left it in your wallet. This is critical if, like me, you’re frequently going to various doctor’s appointments or have to go to the emergency room.

8. Headphones — These might not seem like a medical necessity, but for me they are. If I’m feeling particularly bad that day, music can help majorly improve my mood. Headphones are also needed in case a doctor’s visit involves anything with needles, or for the dreaded emergency room visit.

This is just what’s inside my bag, my own personal emergency kit. I’m curious: What’s in yours?