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This article by Amy Keeley originally appeared on The Dollar Stretcher.
Nothing breaks finances like illness. When you’re sick, trips to the doctor, over-the-counter medicines, and comfort foods can quickly add up. Though no one can predict how bad an illness will be, there are some things that can minimize the damage, both to your health and bank account.
1. 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. Make whatever you can from this menu in advance. Purchase soups and juices on sale for your pantry, as well as bananas and other fruits – which can come in handy if your kids like cold smoothies for sore throats.
2. Keep the towels, sheets, and blankets clean and ready. This can be very difficult with kids, but if you find yourself with three people throwing up at once, you’ll be glad you did this.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Reduce the clutter. Not only does clutter make it difficult to move around when you’re sick and attract dust, it also has a tendency to depress your spirits.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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. In the book “How to Grow Fresh Air,” Dr. B.C. Wolverton makes a great argument that having plants in a room also reduces toxins and increases humidity. If you decide not to get any plants, just making sure the filter in your air conditioner or heater is clean will help.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
Amy Keeley is a contributor to The Dollar Stretcher, a site dedicated to helping you “live better…for less.” You can follow The Dollar Stretcher on Twitter. Check out related article, Natural Cold Remedies.