Sunday, January 16, 2011

Surviving Cold & Crud Season without Health Insurance

I am 26 and living off a barista's salary. This means being without health insurance until my Hospital Employed Boo puts a ring on it.

And here we are now, a time of year just brutal when it comes to "the crud," so much that nearly everyone I know has had to battle it within the past month.Buddies, I wasn't feeling so hot yesterday. Mild fever, the impending doom of junk collecting in my chest, and the feeling that something just wasn't right. These same symptoms crept up on me in August, and I woke the next day with upper respiratory congestion bad enough that I could hardly breathe. 

I've paired my mild obsession with natural but practical remedies with the fact that I simply cannot afford a doctor's visit*. Under my belt now are some decent health hacks to battle those nasties when they try to ruin my good times. They're affordable, effective, and natural without involving a single crystal or call to the four corners of the earth.

I did these yesterday at the first signs of illness, and I feel almost 100% today!
Left to Right: Heating pad, Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap, Tea Tree Oil, Neti Pot
  • First Things First: Know your body! Pay special attention always to how your body feels. This is the first important step in treating an illness-- the key to catching and zapping it early.
  • Exercise: Sweat it out! Get your blood moving!
  • Hot Compress/Heating pad: A hot compress or heating pad applied directly to the affected area (chest, sinus, etc) stimulates your blood's movement, which will help clear any infection/bacteria. I will often sleep with the heating pad on my chest if I'm feeling congested (make sure you are being safe and only sleep with a pad that is timed to turn off!). Bonus: sleeping like a baby as soon as that heating pad meets my body.
  • Peppermint and Tea Tree Oil: Hot, hot, hot steamy showers will loosen up congestion. Use a natural peppermint soap (I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Dr. Bronner's!) or Tea Tree oil in the steam to speed up the process.
  • Neti Pot: People find this terrifying, but it's genuinely addicting when you finally try it. I work in a hospital, and most physicians mention the neti pot first and foremost when asking for cold treatment advice. Do this twice-a-day: a pinch of sea salt and warm water through both nostrils. If you do it right, I PROMISE IT DOES NOT FEEL LIKE YOU'RE DROWNING or HAVE WATER UP YOUR NOSE. Cross my heart. You can pick these up in a health market or a drug store for $6-$15, depending on the model.
Left to Right: Horseradish, Emergen-C, Water, Garlic Oil

  • Horseradish/Spicy Food: Works like a natural vapor rub. Eat a little somethin' somethin' with hot sauce, horseradish, or wasabi and let the drainage begin!
  • Emergen-C: Some people like Airborne, but I've always been partial to Emergen-C. Loading up on vitamin C boosts your immune system and increases your energy when you're crud-sluggish. I try to drink one every day, but if I'm feeling crummy I bump it to two. Bonus: it's a multi-vitamin! Hint: I don't recommend Tangerine or Acai as a flavor--instead, stick with Super Orange.
  • Fluids: Water is not optional, of course! Help your body flush out that illness. Hint: hot water will also help kill bacteria in your throat. Add a little honey and lemon to soothe an achey gullet. If you're a coffee hound like me, cut back as best you can!
  • Garlic Oil: My favorite, FAVORITE trick! I take two of these each day I am feeling bad, and VOILA it's almost an insta-fix. Swallowing a clove of garlic like a pill is as health-effective as a capsule, but definitely less cost-effective. You can find these with all the other supplements and vitamins. Garlic oil actually cleanses your blood, ridding your body of whatever gunk is making you feel lousy. If you do just one thing on this list, DO THIS! Well, and drink water. So, two things! Also, garlic is incredibly heart healthy, so it's not a bad idea to take one of these every day even if you're feeling a-okay.

Good luck, my sicklings! Try these tricks until your symptoms have completely disappeared. If you have any other natural healing tips, please share!

*Disclaimer: While all of these things are 100% natural and safe, it is obviously very important that you respect your body! Make sure you have no allergies or other risks before trying any of these. And of course, your life and health is invaluable--if you NEED to see a health care professional, do it NO MATTER WHAT.


  1. Great tips- I need some garlic oil in my life!

  2. Ahh...I wish I read this two weeks ago when I was feelin' sick. Great advice!

  3. love the neti pot. I will definitely be looking into peppermint soap. this is a great blog, brooke.