When it's worth the money to see a doctor - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

When it's worth the money to see a doctor

DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- With the winter weather comes more illnesses, and with a slow economy, many people are just trying to tough it out instead of paying for a doctor visit. But, even when money's tight, sometimes seeing the doctor is a must.

"I generally just go to the store and buy some over the counter medicine," Jill Trent said.

"I drink a lot of fluids, go to bed, and usually the next day, I wake up feeling much better," Carol Fontaine said.

When it comes to your average cold or flu, doctors say these folks have it right: buy symptom-relieving over the counter meds and play the waiting game. Already, pharmacies have seen an increase in people buying off the shelf.

"We've seen a big increase in cough, a lot of people coming in with a cough. Also, there's a lot of sinus things going around, a lot of congestion, that type of thing," Hy-Vee Pharmacy manager Kris Haxmeier said.

Here are some signs that you need to make a doctor's appointment (American Academy of Family Physicians): If you have a high or long lasting fever, symptoms lasting more than 10 days, trouble breathing, chest pain, confusion or disorientation, severe vomiting, or severe pain in your face or forehead.

If you do spend the money to see the doctor, be prepared, prescriptions could cost you more than years past.

"Some of the newer antibiotics are really expensive, hard for people to afford even if they have insurance; sometimes they do have fairly high co-pays and things like that," Haxmeier said. Haxmeier advises the best way to save money is to ask your doctor to prescribe generic medicine and utilize special discounts, like the $4 generic prescription program at Hy-Vee.

For many, no insurance or not having good insurance factors into the decision to go to the doctor or pick up prescriptions. Even some with insurance say the copays are hard to handle. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, since 1999, family premiums for employer-sponsored insurance have increased nearly 120%, while wages have gone up only 34%.

Also, guidelines for treating childrens cold and flu have changed this year. Last year the FDA pulled several pediatric over the counter medicines recommending no children under two use the meds. Now the FDA says you should not use pediatric cold and flu medicine for children under age four.

Pharmacists say there are still ways to treat symptoms in children under four.

"Usually, we recommend fluids, elevating their bed to make sure they can breathe easier, take them into humidity, maybe a warm shower, do compresses to get congestion, or a saline solution for the nose," Haxmeier said.

Doctors say if your child has any of these symptoms, see a doctor: Fever above 103 or that lasts more than three days, trouble breathing, earache, or noticable behavior changes, like stong irritability, seizures, or inability to wake up.

Online Reporter: Jamie Grey

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