Nothing breaks finances like illness. When you're sick, trips to the doctor, over-the-counter medicines, and comfort foods with little nutrition can quickly knock down whatever plans you originally had for your paycheck. Though no one can tell how bad an illness will be in advance, there are some things that can minimize the damage it'll do, both to your health and bank account.
Have easy and quick meals on hand. Prepare a menu if you can for at least three days (preferably seven) of stomach-friendly foods that don't make the illness worse and keep it in an easily locatable location. Make whatever you can from this menu in advance and store it however best suits the item. Purchase soups and juices on sale for your pantry (or can them yourself) and freeze bananas and other fruits if your kids like cold smoothies for their throats. If you like fresh juices, build up a small amount of cash specifically for use during an illness so your food budget won't suffer too much (cash is necessary if you have to ask someone else to buy the food for you).
Keep the towels, sheets and blankets clean and ready. This can be very difficult with kids, but if you find yourself with three people all throwing up at once, you'll be glad you did this.
Do your best to keep up with the housework as a regular routine. Learn about sanitary practices in the home and apply them. If your family is allergic to chemicals, do your best to learn alternatives. A good source is the book Clean and Green by Annie Berthold-Bond.
Learn some basic herbal remedies for simple colds. A favorite for sore throats is a combination of honey, pressed garlic, and cayenne pepper. For the kids, we'll use red raspberry, yarrow, or chamomile tea with a little bit of honey.
Reduce the clutter. Not only does clutter make it difficult to move around when you're sick and attracts dust and who knows what else, but it also has a tendency to depress your spirits.
Keep a section devoted to tips specific to your family in a folder or notebook. Things like a particular juice your daughter likes or a food someone has a tendency to crave should be included. Herbal remedies can also go in this section. Keep them in your recipe book for easy access.
Make sure you have a way to pay for a doctor (medical fund or insurance). Colds and flu can usually be treated at home, but you never know when a complication like pneumonia can show up.
Clean the air in your house. According to the EPA, air that doesn't circulate can make you sick. You don't need a fancy ventilation system to freshen the air. Just open some windows. Make sure you've got windows open on both sides of the house so you get a cross-breeze and keep the doors open so the air can easily circulate. Fans also help. How to Grow Fresh Air by Dr. B.C. Wolverton makes a great argument that having plants in a room also reduces toxins and increases humidity based on studies by NASA. If you decide not to get any plants, just making sure the filter in your air conditioner or heater is clean will help.
Have friends who are able and willing to brave the illness to help. Know who you can call if an emergency happens and you need help. Be prepared in case both parents fall ill, especially if you have young children.
Learn how to manage stress. Though it has yet to be conclusively proven, there is evidence that stress depresses the immune system and makes it more likely that you'll get sick. Take a moment each day to pause, breathe, smile and relax. It doesn't have to be long; just a few minutes will do wonders.
Instill good habits in your kids. Teach them when and how to wash their hands, keep their bodies clean, take care of their rooms and help out around the house. Cleanliness is the best way to avoid illness.
Editor's note: Please see your doctor for any serious illness. Never put your health in jeopardy to save money.
Take the Next Step:
Before cold and flu season is completely upon us, take the time to visit the Health and Safety section of The Dollar Stretcher Library. From homemade remedies to illness and injury prevention, you're sure to find the answers to many health-related questions.
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