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How to Save Money When You are Sick

Getting through a Cold or the Flu on a Budget

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Updated July 07, 2009

Everyone would like to save money these days, even when you are sick. But all of those cold and flu medications can be expensive, not to mention visits to the doctor and using up your precious sick days at work. Follow these tips for saving money when you are sick, and you might just have a little money left in your bank account when you are well again.

1. Buy Generic

US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (PD)
Most brand name over-the-counter medications are available in generic form as well. Just check the active ingredient on your favorite brand name medication and find the generic or store brand with the same ingredient. You will likely save quite a bit of money and it will be just as effective.

2. Try Saline Spray First

Rather than trying an expensive nasal decongestant, try saline spray first and irrigate your sinuses. You can buy saline spray over the counter for little money or, to save even more, you can make your own. It's an effective way to relieve some of that congestion and possibly even prevent a sinus infection.

3. Get a Flu Shot

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While it may seem counterintuitive to shell out $35 for a flu shot when you are trying to save money, just look at it as an investment. In the long run, you will save more money by getting that flu vaccine and avoiding the flu altogether than you would if you skip it to save a few bucks.

The money you lose in lost days at work, not to mention what you will spend on medications and trips to see your healthcare provider will be far more than the amount of the flu vaccine.

4. Check Your Symptoms

Before you head to the doctor just to be told you have a virus and there is nothing they can do, read up on your symptoms and try to figure out if you really need to make that trip. You can evaluate:

You can also use our Symptom Checker to assess all of your symptoms and find out more about what could be ailing you.

5. Try Treating it at Home

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Government
Typically, colds don't require a visit to the doctor, they can't do anything to make it better anyway. If you are suffering from typical common cold symptoms and you don't have any other chronic medical problems, try these tips before you make an appointment and see if you can make it through without spending money on your copay.

6. Skip the Pricey Antiviral Meds

Unless you or a family member is at significant risk for serious complications, there probably isn't any reason to take an antiviral medication if you get the flu. They can make it slightly less severe and may shorten the duration by a day or two. So if you really can't afford to lose any extra days of work, it may be worthwhile. But it's debatable as to how well they work and may not help you much if you are an otherwise healthy adult.
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