That's Eligible?! What I learned from a 5-week head cold

I could feel the sneeze coming and tried my best to stop it. I looked up at the lights and held my breath (or is that what you do for hiccups?). My eyes started to water and I knew that the fight was over. "ACHOO!" The sound of my sneeze echoed around the conference room and before I could even apologize for the interruption to the meeting, three more sneezes left my body, "ACHOO! ACHOO! ACHOO!"

Wiping my nose, I looked around the room at my coworkers. My eyes were still watering and it felt like an elephant was stomping on my head. I offered a weak smile that looked more like a grimace as I apologized for the third interruption that day.

It was my fourth week of feeling sick and in that moment, I knew I had to face the facts: my body was stressed, tired and sick.

Now that I'm finally recovered, it's clear that I could have done things differently to avoid my prolonged cold. I may not be a medical professional (and you should always speak with one before making any changes to your health and wellness routine), but here are some valuable tips that could have worked for me to avoid some of these issues.

Seek treatment before things get bad

For the first few weeks of my head cold, I tried to ignore the pain in my nose, eyes, ears and throat. I figured that it was just a cold and it would go away with time. By week three of the head cold, I thought I would never recover. Instead of swinging from one extreme to the next like I did, it's a good idea to visit your doctor on day two or three of an illness.

Part of the reason is that your sickness might be more serious than you thought, but even if it's not, the visit is still a chance for you to check in with your doctor, gain some peace of mind and get a prescription for over-the-counter medicine so you can use your FSA to pay for it. Plus, you can use your FSA to pay for the doctor's visit.

When I finally went to the doctor sometime during week three of my cold, I found out that it was just a cold, but the peace-of-mind was worth the trip.

Regular doctor's visits

It's hard to admit this, but I haven't gone to my annual check up in years. The thing about check-ups is that when you feel healthy, they feel unnecessary. But part of the recipe for health is actually going to the check-ups, so it's the ultimate catch-22.

There's no guarantee that regular doctor's visits will prevent illness, but they do help ensure that you're generally healthy. By checking for things like vitamin deficiencies through blood work and annual wellness checks, you'll feel confident about your health. So next time you are sick, you'll know that it's just a bug and nothing life-threatening like Google might lead you to believe.

Make time for your annual doctor's visit and don't be afraid to make a doctor's appointment if you have a specific concern. The best part? You can use your FSA to pay your copay or any associated costs.

Get serious about sleep

If you don't sleep well or at all (thanks, insomnia) you might be compromising your immune system. If you struggle with sleep, you're not alone. Nearly 60 million Americans can't sleep. Whether it's anxiety, insomnia, hormones, pain or something else or altogether, it's important to find a solution.

Medicine can be a big help

I don't know what it is about medicine, but I always avoid it. (Okay, so it may have something to do with the fact that I accidentally took nighttime cold meds before a school exam once when I meant to take the non-drowsy type...)

Regardless of the reason, I was not a fan of over-the-counter medicine. But when my sneeze interrupted the meeting for the third time that day, I knew I needed to make some changes and taking medicine was my first step, specifically medicine for congestion.

The good news about over-the-counter medicine is that there are countless types to choose from. Plus, certain medications are FSA-eligible with a prescription from your doctor, like these below.

Don't ignore your mental health

Whether it's exhaustion, depression or anxiety, it's always important to prioritize your mental health. After all, without your health you have nothing. But, with the fast pace of life, it is difficult to find time to relax and unwind, even though your body needs it.

The quickest way I've found to prioritize mental health — and subsequently my physical health — is to create a routine. Whether it's using a therapeutic mask every night to help eliminate daily pains, or utilizing acupressure twice a week after your workout to stave off those aches, it's important to make healthy living and preventive care part of your daily routine.

In addition, seek professional help when you need it. If you're feeling particularly low or can't seem to shake your anxiety, make an appointment with a therapist. Don't wait until it becomes a physical ailment, too.

Bottom line

By the fifth week of my head cold, I had accepted my fate — perpetually congested, always sneezing and continually coughing. My coworkers had bought me an extra-large box of tissues that I carried around with me and we joked that I might get better in 2020. But just as suddenly as it had arrived, my head cold left. Armed with the lessons I learned, I'm ready to make sure it never comes back like this.


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