Whether you’re going to work, to school, or out on the town, it helps to have some essentials with you just in case you need them. Life is unpredictable, and life with chronic illness is even more so. It can give me peace of mind to be prepared for as much as I can.

A few essentials that I never leave home without are backup medications and Biofreeze, to name a few. Keep reading to learn about the RA essentials I keep with me at all times.

I literally never leave home without at least an extra day’s worth of my prescription medications. I would like to have a larger backup supply, but sometimes that’s not realistic. I have about a one-day threshold in which I can go without meds before I start feeling awful. For me, keeping my medications on hand is absolutely essential.

I am addicted to Biofreeze. Depending on the kind of pain I’m in, sometimes it’s the only thing that will bring relief. I prefer the roll-on, but if you don’t want to carry that around with you, smaller packets are available. You can simply throw them in your bag, as needed, and go.

Along with the prescription medications that I take daily to manage my RA, I always have a stock of over-the-counter pain relievers with me. I carry these just in case I need them. When you’re away from home, it’s always a good idea to be prepared.

There are some really small, lightweight packs that are for both heat and ice. This isn’t necessarily something that I use daily. I like to keep one of these on hand if I’m having a bad pain day.

I wear my medical alert bracelet every day. For better or worse, it’s my go-to accessory. I also have a medical alert set up on my phone and a medication card in my wallet. That means at all times I have something visible in my bag or on my person to alert strangers or emergency personnel about my health issues.

The medical alert bracelet is connected to an online profile that includes my surgical and hospital admissions history, along with my current medications. If I were in an emergency situation and lost consciousness, it would provide medical staff with vital information to make decisions about my care.

When I was a graduate student and teaching undergraduates, I worried how my students would react if I had an emergency health situation. Because they weren’t aware of my health issues, I realized that I needed something that could speak for me if I couldn’t speak for myself. That’s why I first decided to get a medical alert bracelet. It might seem like overkill to some people, but it gives me greater peace of mind.

Find what works for you, but keep essential information with you at all times. You never know when you’re going to need it!

With these essentials, I won’t say that I’m prepared for everything, but I’d like to think I’m prepared for most things on a “normal” day of living with RA. The biggest challenge is finding a bag to hold everything! When you need to so many essentials, it can add up to a heavy load. But it’s all worth it to know that I have the things I need.

Leslie Rott was diagnosed with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis in 2008 at the age of 22, during her first year of graduate school. After being diagnosed, Leslie went on to earn a PhD in Sociology from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in Health Advocacy from Sarah Lawrence College. She authors the blog Getting Closer to Myself, where she shares her experiences coping with and living with multiple chronic illnesses, candidly and with humor. She is a professional patient advocate living in Michigan.