Controlling Colds...and Their Cost
How to Prevent Colds: Cleaning Helps
A reader asked about containing colds in the family. One thing that people often forget to clean when they are sick are doorknobs, faucets, toilet levers, lightswitches and banisters. Use a good disinfectant like Shaklee's Basic G at least once a day. (The more the better.) Spray them and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping down.
Laurie T. in Virginia (where it was 70 on Sunday and 40 on Monday)
How to Prevent Colds: Hot, Clean Water and Sleep
To Sheri...the lady with the sick kids....
Here are some ideas thaat have worked for me! I have four kids and they haven't missed a day of school in 2 years.
#1- Check your water heater...is the temp. high enough to kill germs in the dishwasher?
#2- I sometimes add a bit of Clorox bleach to the dishwasher to really sterilize the dishes.
#3- I put my kids to bed at 8:00p.m. and they sleep til 6:30 or 7:00! I really think that kids need sleep and so many don't get enough these days! Sleep is necessary for the body to repair and restore itself!
How to Prevent Colds: Good General Health
The first thing to do is to look after improving the general health of the kids by the fresh air, exercise, good food routine. There are many really great books at your local library on cooking for kids, and how to get great nutrition into them without going broke at the same time. Possibly even your local hospital or health unit has information on good nutrition. The main thing on saving money on food is to cook it for yourself, stay away from 'ready for the table' foods, and foods that don't have a big bang for the buck, nutritionwise. You can do it. It won't be easy, because going into a grocery store is like going into a war zone on budgets. More and more the aisles are packed with grab and go foods, high in salt, fat, and cost, and low in nutrition. The packages are flashy, the message is tempting, and you just know that the profit margin for the manufacturers is higher than for something plain. You just have to be smarter than they are, that is all.
The other thing that you need to think about is that a kid may not appreciate a change in diet, and it needs to be done gradually and with not much fanfare, so they do not make an issue of it. Gradually cut out the snacks, and try to get the family to mealtime with a good appetite. What works sometimes is to put a nice casserole in the oven, maybe a vegie plate or a salad in the fridge, and then take them outside to play for a while, a nature walk, a trip to the playground, whatever is available to you in half an hour or an hour.
I know that kids used to be taught to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, but that does not go far enough. They need to wash afterwards, because all that does is to spread the bugs on to whatever they touch next. If they can get to a Kleenex box, that is one step better. Really, frequent hand washing, as well as washing toys, bedding, anything that comes in contact with the kid, needs to be washed and dried carefully. I would be a bit relaxed about this, too, as it could get to be a bit of a pain, for yourself, as well as the children.
Try to stay away from people, young or old, who have fresh colds, as that is when it is the most contagions. Easier said than done, I know. Now, when the kids do get sick, as they will occasionally, try to get them to drink lots of fluid, look after the little creature comforts, give them a song or a story, and pamper them a bit. Remember that nothing feels as good to a little kid as Mommy's hands, when they are sick. Take their temperature regularly, and mark it down in case you have to take them in to the doctor. Also mark down the progress of the illness, such as the time the earache started, or the diarhea, or the vomiting. You may do this twenty times, and end up throwing it away, but if you do go to the doctor, it may come in useful.
None of this really addresses your question of saving money on medicine, except by trying to prevent them getting sick in the first place. Antibiotics are terribly expensive, I know, and I would never tell you not to get them, because they are lifesavers. In making this decision, I would rely on the doctors' judgment, if he thinks you could give conservative treatment a try, and you take your child home without a prescription, just continue good home nursing care, and keep a close eye on things. When my kids were little I had a rule that worked for me. If they were not improving after three days, or seemed really sick, which is a judgement call only you can make, off to the doctor we would go.
How to Prevent Colds: New Toothbrushes
When my family can't get rid of viruses, I change everybody's toothbrush. Toothbrushes can hang on to the germs and reinfect you. Also if the kids are covering their mouths when they cough, then they are putting germs on their hands, so washing hands often is a good idea. If the children are really young, you might want to disinfect plastic toys that they play with and put in their mouths. Hope this helps.
Remember, this too shall pass.
How to Prevent Colds: Bleach
Something my grandmother taught me to do is to add a small "glug" of bleach to the dish water when washing dishes (for those of us who don't own dishwashers). She found that it helps prevent colds from being spread around as easily. I also add a little bleach when I've had several guests over, just to make sure everything gets sanitized.
Also, I have managed colds quite well by taking the herb echinacea in tea or capsule form, as well as adding plenty of garlic or garlic capsules to my diet. I also take high doses of vitamin C (up to 5,000 mg!) in addition to my regular multiple vitamin. Within a few days I find that the symptoms have nearly disappeared.
How to Prevent Colds: Echineacea and Goldenseal
Sheri, First let me say that, on average, children get 6 colds per year. That alone is more than enough to cope with. In addition to eating healthy food, getting sufficient sleep and exercise and living as peacefully as possible, here's our winter routine. It seems to have helped at least some. I really do believe the best preventative to disease is to be as physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy as possible.
We take a combination Echinacea/Goldenseal for one week, Astragalus the next then nothing for two weeks. The children take one pill three times a day, the adults take two pills three times a day. We use a product put out by Zand. Their herbs have always been potent, something not always found in other products. There's a product by Arizona Naturals called Koala Kids for children who can't swallow pills. I say children because the dose is child sized. Another option is to take Echinacea alone three weeks on, three weeks off. I've experimented with both ways and prefer the Echinacea/Goldenseal, Astraguls routine.
Another thing we do is to treat everyone homeopathically. We have found hoemopathy to be effective for everything ranging from colds, fever, ear infections, staph infections, you name it, we've treated it. As a preventative, everyone gets a dose of Influenzinum 30X one dose, once a week. If anyone in the family comes down with a cold or flu, everyone else gets one dose of Influenzinum 200X. I know many people question the efficacy of homeopathy. I can only tell of our overall very positive experience with it. In terms of costs, it is far less expensive than traditional medical treatment. Not only have our "office visits" when we've needed to consult a practitioner been less than a regular doctor's visit, the remedies cost about $5 per bottle, less when we buy them through our food co-op, and the bottles last a_long_ time. With some self-education, I am now generally able to treat my family resulting in lower medical costs and shorter lasting colds and flu.
The final tip I'll pass along came from a friend of my mother's. During the winter, she used paper towels in the bathroom. I couldn't quite stomach the paper waste so use individual hand and bath towels which I change daily. You can color code them for family members. I'd also recommend putting your toothbrush through the dishwasher after a cold. I know dentists recommend getting a new toothbrush every time you get sick but I just can't see the expense.
How to Prevent Colds: You Don't Necessarily Need a Doctor
Here is the option we have chosen to deal with illness at our house - please know that we pay close attention to our sick children and understand that this route is not for everyone. We simply don't go see the doctor unless we have an emergency or someone is so ill we feel that we are out of our league. I understand that some things need quick evaluation and certain symptoms should be responded to immediately, but to date we have never needed an MD or an emergency room. We've been married 6 years, have a 5 year old, a 2 year old and just recently a new baby. All three children were born at home with a midwife (who is an invaluable source of home remedies and what we need to watch out for as far as signs of serious illness). In my opinion, most colds and viruses that are typically passed around require no more than a close eye, lots of liquids, rest and lots of TLC. My rule of thumb is it will get worse or it will get better - if it gets better, Great! If it gets worse, we'll go see the doctor. I know there are many out there who will think this is dangerous and irresponsible, but I feel like the key is responsibility. I am willing to be responsible for the health of my family. If I take them in to see the doctor for every sniffle, he is going to charge me an arm and a leg to take on that responsibility.
How to Prevent Colds: Doorknobs and Light Switches
Make sure you regularly clean all your doorknobs and light switches. A lot of germs accumulate there.
Look into natural remedies. Garlic is an excellent antibiotic. Echinacea helps build your immune system. I invested in a book which I have found to be very helpful. It's called _Prescription for Nutritional Healing_ by James and Phyllis Balch. It normally retails for $19.95, but I got mine for $12.79 at Costco. Sam's Club carries it also.
How to Prevent Colds: Keep it to Yourself!
You sure have the right idea--washing their hands is one of the most important precautions to take. It's also important to try to keep everyone from spreading the germs after they blow their nose (or worse, wiping it with the back of their hands!) and even from rubbing their eyes. Another reason people get so many colds in the winter is because its cold--not from the temperature itself, but by the very fact that people stay in close quarters with one another, and that the humidity, or even the lack of it is the perfect breeding ground for those germs.
The medical costs you're referring to is probably from all the over-the-counter cold medicines. Since these are all for suppressing symptoms, they are optional (but definately convenient). Some of the old fashioned remedies are: salt water gargles, steam to clear congestion, sleeping with the upper body elevated to prevent becoming over congested at night, and lots and lots of rest.
If you do find yourself visiting the doctor (we've gone to rule out ear infect ions, etc.) check the difference in what your insurance will pay for prescriptions and what the cost of buying them over-the-counter is. If you only pay a couple of dollars (or less) for a prescription, you may be better off having your doctor prescribe the medicine (in a family-size quantity) rather than heading for the drug store to buy decongestants or acetominaphin. Also, don't buy more medicine than you need: you pay more for a decongestant/cough suppressant than for either alone, so if you don't have the symptom, don't pay for the extra.
Also, on a related note: my sister (also a frugalite) taught me a way to stretch coffee. Reusing your coffee grounds, just add a little more new to the old grounds (which still have a lot of life in them). Just don't do it to day-old grounds! I get a cold GUARANTEED every time I do it. It's okay if its just a second pot on the same day, but the warmth and moisture in the grounds must be some sort of magnet for cold germs when left long enough.
How to Prevent Colds: Echinacea
This year I was introduced to and began using the herb echinacea to boost the immune system. I buy drops for my 5-year-old son and capsules for my husband and I. Sometimes they incude other immune boosting herbs such as golden seal. You can only take these for a couple of weeks at a time to keep the benefits up, so we only began to take them when we were around people with colds and flu, we began sniffling or became run down. We continued to take them for a week.
They worked. Everybody around us got this nasty 2-week-flu and colds. Not us. My son began sniffling Friday night. I began giving him herbs on Saturday. He sniffles were gone completely by Monday.
I suggest going to a store that has a trained herbablist - not just a teenager working at a mall nurtrition store. They can give you literature and instructions on the amounts and duration of use.
How to Prevent Colds: Herbal Suggestions
The first thing I would like to say is that I have no medical training and that all of my suggestions come from years of reading and "experimentation" with myself and my own family.
That said, the first thing I would suggest is to invest in two really good books on herbs and supplements. "Today's Herbal Health" and especially the "Health Handbook" by Louise Tenney, M.H. are the best books I've found for the lay person to learn about herbs. Both are published by Woodland Books.
The things I use most during cold and flu season are echinecea, goldenseal, lobelia, buttermilk, garlic and mullein oil ear drops, and good old vitamin C.
For your basic cold we take echinecea, goldenseal and vitamin C. For the children I half the adult dose and I use the tincture form and hide it in their juice. While nothing can cure the cold virus (so I hear) this definitely cuts the cold time in half and, if taken at first sign of a cold, stops it all together. I personally double the RDA dosage for myself on the echinecea and goldenseal and I take about 4,000 milligrams of vitamin C a day when I feel a cold coming on. Some people cannot start taking that high a dosage without bothering their stomach.
If everyone is relatively healthy you might want to take echinecea for two weeks on and then two weeks off. Also you might want to take some vitamin C everyday.
For those pesky ear infections take echinecea, goldenseal, lobelia and the garlic and mullein ear drops until the runny nose seems totally gone. I have had great success with these herbs. If the cold doesn't seem to clear up within a week after using these or if the child is in obvious pain instead of a little discomfort take them to the doctor for antibiotics. When my younger children get a cold I automatically start the ear infection treatment, since most headcolds seem to go to their ears, whether they seem like they're in pain or not.
My last suggestion is for the "stomach flu". Immediately after the first person comes down with it run to the store and buy some buttermilk. The other residents in the house should take at least a tablespoon every few hours. If you happen to love it like I do, drink it to your heart's content. Something about the cultures in it must prevent you from catching the "stomach flu" because we haven't had this remedy fail since we've started using it. Unfortunately the original carrier seems to be a goner. Sorry.
Just to let your know, I'm not totally opposed to your pharmacy-type antibiotics. They are, however, widely overused and actually lower your immune system tremendously. If I don't see some improvement within a week I turn to the doctor for his advice which usually includes antibiotics. The other problem with antibiotics is that they help the yeast to go crazy in your body which can cause entirely different problems as well as lowering your immune system. If you do have to use antibiotics I suggest taking acidophilus to combat the yeast. I have read many conflicting articles about using acidophilus and antibiotics at the same time, but most seem to favor the use of acidophilus.
How to Prevent Colds: Disinfectant
I clean houses for a living and have a suggestion for the family of six with the colds being passed back and forth.
Do you disinfect your door handles? Even if you wash your hands your door handles still have the virus on them because you touch them before you go into the bathroom and when you come back out. I have cut the amount of colds in our family by more than half just by cleaning the door handles.
P.S. We operate a small goat dairy and have many things to disinfect and regulations to live up to. Here is the cheapest disinfectant I know of: 3 tablespoons of bleach to 1 gallon of water. This solution is the standard for dairies.
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