At least once during your year, someone in the home is likely to become sick, especially if there are school-aged children or the host parents work in a heavy-traffic environment, like a university, office building, or retail space.
All Au Pairs have basic traveler’s health insurance, with the option to upgrade. It’s important to understand that this is not a comprehensive plan. Without comprehensive insurance, routine care can be very expensive in the U.S., a huge change from what you’re used to if you hail from most European countries.
So, au pairs, if you are experiencing mild symptoms, going to a hospital or traditional physician’s office is probably not advisable. You should never forego medical care, especially if you have an emergency. Your travel insurance is designed for emergency situations–if you’ve broken a bone or have intense, persistent symptoms, do not hesitate to call a doctor or hospital. If you are sneezing or have a mild sprain, though, using your insurance for non-emergency or routine care will cost you more over time than will paying with cash.
Most Walgreens and CVS pharmacies in Indianapolis have small clinics inside, where no appointment is required, that is staffed by nurse practitioners. These health care providers can help diagnose common medical problems and prescribe treatments. If you require medical tests, you may be referred to a laboratory–explain your lack of traditional insurance to the nurse, and ask that they refer you to a low-cost lab.
If you have a cold, you can care for yourself by using a humidifier, drinking plenty of fluids, and getting rest. Homeopathic and natural remedies, including the Pelargonium syrup that is prescribed in most European countries for colds and other viruses, are less common in the U.S., but you can find them here. Boiron products can be purchased in retail pharmacies, and a wider variety of homeopathic and natural medicines are available in health food stores, like Nature’s Pharm and The Good Earth.
Also note: some traditional physicians offer discounts for patients without comprehensive insurance, provided they pay in cash at the time services are rendered. Ask before scheduling an appointment.
And of course, if you need help navigating your basic or upgraded travel insurance, or with navigating the complex network of providers available in the U.S., please don’t hesitate to contact me!
Some general tips for avoiding illness, so that you don’t need to seek out care:
- Wash your hands, and make sure the children you care for wash theirs. Do this especially after cooking, school pickups, and visits to crowded places.
- Make sure you’re getting proper nutrition with plenty of vitamins (get as many as you can from food instead of supplements in pill or liquid form, as they are more easily absorbed when all-natural). This will keep your immune system strong.
- Especially during flu season, avoid self-serve foods (like vegetable trays or chips and dip) at gatherings, which could spread germs. It’s also a good idea to use alcohol in moderation, as heavy consumption can weaken the immune system.
- Some people (myself included) swear by a daily dose of Apple Cider Vinegar (with “the mother,” offered by the brand Bragg’s in the U.S.) for warding off and alleviating the symptoms of a cold.