Day 8 – Cashed Up Christmas – reducing medical expenses

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Don’t you hate it when you’re sick?  I am typing this while home after the second day in a row off work with a cold. Staying home?  Sounds relaxing, but somehow it is not fun when you’re unwell.  And the worst is that you spend so much money when you are sick.  Apparently, I am far from alone this week.

This year’s flu epidemic, especially in Canberra, has been the worst in decades.  There is a difference between a common cold and the more serious -and potentially deadly – influenza.  But both are viruses, and both need to be respected.

I have been tracking really well this year and avoiding sicknesses.  So well in fact that I was almost gloating that I hadn’t had a cold in six months, a result I believed of my positive attitude and new cycling to work habit.  But then the dreaded lurgy hit, starting Friday night.

I’m sure you know the drill: you feel sick so you buy speciality cold and flu tablets, medicinal cough lozenges, drinks to make you feel better, vitamins, cough mixtures and all sorts of things.  Actually, on average, we spend around $500 million in Australia on such things. And that doesn’t include doctors visits, which can be difficult to arrange at short notice (and let’s face it, you don’t plan on having a cold).

But really, there is no need to spend so much.

  1. Most GPs are expensive, and private health insurance doesn’t cover GP visits.  But there are still ways to get a medical certificate cheaply.  It is important to have a good relationship with a trusted GP.  But where I live in Canberra (I am assuming it is the same elsewhere in Australia), it is difficult to get in to see a GP at short notice if you need a medical certificate for being off work with a cold.  And most don’t bulk bill. I made several phone calls this morning trying (unsuccessfully) to see a GP before I decided on visiting the Belconnen Walk-In Centre.  The place was clean, I waited only around a quarter of an hour, my nurse was experienced, professional and helpful, and they bulk billed. It was my first visit, and I was very impressed. If your area does not have a similar Walk-In Centre, consider going to a pharmacist for a certificate (generally around $20 to $30), or visiting a Traditional Chinese Medical practitioner (yep, I checked and my work accepts this – fabulous as I can get treatment as well as a certificate).
  2. There is no cure for the common cold.  A cold is a virus, and it takes time for your body to recover and heal. In my experience, it generally takes a week of rest.  If you soldier on through, you won’t give your body space for healing and you might get worse.  Like as in serious bronchial complaints or perhaps even pneumonia.
  3. Drink more water.  Lots of water.  Having a cold can be very dehydrating. You are losing a lot of fluid out from your nose, and this needs to be replaced.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, they emphasise drinking warm water. I find that cold drinks or ice cream will make me cough more when I have a cold, so I generally avoid them.
  4. Most cold and flu medicines don’t work.  They reduce the symptoms, not the cause.  If they help you get through, that’s fine, but they are not a substitute for rest.  Today the nurse I saw reiterated, at length, how most of these medicines do not work because nothing can cure a cold.  Save your money and take time off work instead.
  5. A little bit of fever isn’t a bad thing.  My lovely nurse today also said that recent research indicates that a bit of heat is good as it is the body’s way of getting rid of colds.  Of course, high fever is an issue and you need to be especially careful with children.  But don’t be scared of a bit of fever as it is your body’s way of healing.
  6. Rest, rest and more rest.  Seriously.  I used to think that I needed to be tough and go to work no matter what, to meet deadlines and show that I was responsible.  What happened was that I ended up being sicker for longer, making mistakes at work, and making my colleagues sick by spreading my germs. Now I do everyone a favour and stay at home.
  7. Practice good hygiene.  Stop colds and flu spreading by coughing into your elbow rather than your hand, and washing your hands as often as possible.  Most colds and flus spread in common areas such as public transport and workplaces where people tough objects that people with a cold have touched, or who are subjected to droplets from a cough (which can be sprayed up to 4m away).
  8. Honey and lemon juice is my friend.  This an oldy but a goodie.  As soon as I come down with a cold, I make myself a honey and lemon juice drink with hot water.  Lemon is high in vitamin C, and honey helps soothe the throat and has antibacterial qualities.  If you want to be fancy you could add a soluble aspirin to help manage pain.  But otherwise, this is magic.
  9. Salt water gargle also helps.  Add one teaspoon of water to a cup of water, and allow to cool.  Gargle.  This will help more than any of those fancy throat lozenge things.

So how did I go today?  Saving on going to a GP $40.  Saving on medicine $40.  Total saving $80.  And while I am still coughing through the night, I am recovering just fine.

Wants versus needs – estimate $300 just on Christmas
Kogans mobile $167 plan 365 days
Growing your own herbs $182 a year
NBN savings:  $294.99
Weekly eat at home savings (estimated over a year):  $1,300
Renting out space in my home: $10,000 a year
Qantas cash card – $180 a year
Nursing a cold the natural way – $80

Total:  $12,503.99

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