How to Save Money While Staying Healthier Through Cold and Flu Season

By Jessica Sommerfield

| Photographs By andriano_cz

Fall is the time of year known for vibrant colors, crisp weather, pumpkin patches, and spiced cider — but it’s also known as the beginning of cold and flu season.

Whether you blame it on the changing weather patterns, the lack of daylight, or spending more time in close quarters with other people, getting sick can impact not just your health, but your wallet. Between missed work and medical costs, sickness gets expensive very quickly.

And sure, staying healthy (I’ll share some tips for that) is probably the cheapest option, but there are still ways to save money while you’re on the mend so more of your hard-earned money can go toward a holiday shopping fund, savings goal, or retirement account.

1. Get More Paranoid About Germs

You don’t have to be a germaphobe, but basic things like washing your hands frequently (for a full 20 seconds) — and using hand sanitizers when you can’t — provide a first line of defense against getting sick. It’s also wise to avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth throughout the day.

2. Consider a Seasonal Flu Shot, Especially If You Have a Record of Severe Cases

The question of whether seasonal flu vaccines are more effective or harmful always generates debate. The CDC studies support a 70% reduction in flu-related hospitalizations among people who take this preventative step, so make of that what you will. If you don’t get the flu that often, it might be an unnecessary expense. If you do, a flu shot is significantly cheaper than the medical costs to treat it.

Many employers sponsor free flu-shot clinics for their employees and their families, and if you have public health insurance, the Affordable Care Act requires providers to pay for the cost. Sources say that seniors with Medicare Part B can get free flu shots, as well.

Even out of pocket, you can usually find flu shots for $15 or less from retail-store pharmacies, school programs, and health department clinics.

3. Take Preventative Care to Boost Your Immune System

Of course, there are also many natural, low-cost ways to stay healthy during cold and flu season — without buying into pricey immune-boosting OTC products. The first tip is to focus on the way you treat your body. Eating a whole-food-based diet, exercising regularly, avoiding unnecessary stress, and getting enough sleep are the best ways to boost your immune system. Second, be sure you’re getting enough of these key nutrients through the foods you eat:

  • Protein
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A

Note: Eating enough is also key to staying healthy. (Yes, I’m talking to all of you who try to lose weight by eating less.) A proper diet and getting enough sleep is probably the best defense against illnesses.

4. When You Get a Cold, Save Money with Generics and Natural Remedies

We all know there’s no cure for the common cold, but many home remedies and basic medications can help you deal with the symptoms and recover faster.

With medications, remember that the effective ingredients are what matters — not the brand name. Don’t hesitate to try the store brand of an antihistamine or decongestant. If you’re not sure whether there are generics for a name-brand drug, check with a pharmacist.

Natural remedies can provide effective relief at very little expense: try a neti pot to relieve and prevent sinus infections, herbal teas to boost your immunity, and saltwater gargling to relieve a sore throat.

Note: A hot soup also works wonders. Not only will you instantly feel better as the warm liquid enters your body, but you’ll also get some nutrition in you because you are likely eating less while you are sick. Another neat trick that works well is to soak your feet in warm water just before you go to bed. The heat will help promote blood circulation and help you sleep better.

Cold and flu season may be here, but it doesn’t mean your health or finances need to suffer. Use these tips to prevent sickness, reduce your medical costs, and save money even when you do succumb to the common cold.


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