How much a cold can cost you

The Cost of a Cold

It all started with a sore throat. At first, I thought (and hoped) that it was nothing, just a little blip on the old health radar. After all, I haven’t been sick-sick in about 2 years.

Unfortunately, as the days passed, that sore throat morphed into sneezing, coughing, congestion, etc. I had caught a full-on cold. Ugh!

By the first week of February, I was starting to perk up and feel a bit better. That reprieve lasted about 3 days until the rest of the family came down with the sniffles and runny noses. My cold came roaring back with a vengeance. That’s when the cost of a cold started racking up.

Urgent Care

On Valentines Day, I had reached my limit. Feeling downright awful, I finally caved and asked my husband to take me to the urgent care clinic. I was officially sick of being sick.



$50 and 15 minutes later, I had a diagnosis- sinus infection, and a prescription for antibiotics. Sweet relief!

I had stubbornly waited so long to go to the Dr. because it seemed silly to go for a common cold. Unfortunately, no amount of chicken noodle soup, tea, and over the counter meds were making a difference. Now I knew why. Apparently, my cold had morphed into a full-blown sinus infection, which is why it wasn’t going anywhere without a little help from modern medicine.

Adding up the damage

While I did save money since I basically stayed home for the whole month, we did have to spend on all those cold-related necessities. I decided to total it up and see just what the cost of a cold for our family really is:

  • 2 boxes generic DayQuil gel capsules @ $2.79 each
  • 1 bottle generic DayQuil liquid @ $3.99
  • 1 bottle of Robitussin cough syrup @ $7.99
  • 1 bottle Children’s Pedia Care @ $5.99
  • Visit to Urgent Care @ $50
  • Prescription antibiotics @ $4.43
  • 1 box tea bags @ $3.99
  • 1 bottle of honey @5.99
  • 6 boxes of tissues @ $1.50 each

Total: $96.96

That is one costly cold! On the bright side, I was able to keep working the whole time, since I freelance from home. There were definitely days where my productivity level was non-existent, but I powered through and tried to keep up with the workload and client requests as best as I could.

*Please note that this total was for all 3 of us, not just me. I was not downing multiple packages of over the counter cold relief and cough medicine on my own!

Lesson learned

This crummy experience taught me that it is not worth it to wait to see a Dr., even if it’s just a cold. After a week of suffering, it’s time to suck it up and see someone. I’m so glad that there’s a nice urgent care facility that opened up nearby recently. I’m also grateful that we currently have a prescription plan through our insurance.

My trip to the clinic would have been more expensive without our health insurance plan. Our insurance isn’t fabulous, but it’s not terrible, either.

I’ve had to go to urgent care for a cold that morphed into a sinus infection without insurance. It cost me $120, but after receiving antibiotics and finally getting better, it was worth it. My personal take is that your health is worth far more than any savings. It hurts to go to a Dr without insurance, but it’s better than the alternative of letting something fester. Had I waited, I would have been in much worse shape and would have had to stop working for days, maybe even weeks.

cost of a common cold

How to Save on a Cold

Planning ahead can help you cut down on the costs associated with a cold or other common illness.

Stock Up

Look for sales and coupons when you’re not sick and stock up on those cold essentials. When you come down with a cold, the last thing you feel like doing is getting dressed and heading out to the store. Keep your cabinets stocked with chicken noodle soup, your favorite teas, and honey.

Go through your medicine cabinet and toss old and expired over the counter meds. You may be surprised at how quickly time goes by and the medicine that it seems like you just bought is past the expiration date. Don’t take chances, just toss it and restock. The fall is a great time to do this so that you’re ready for the cold and flu season. Consider purchasing cold meds when you get your flu shot so that you’re all set for the fall and winter.

Buy common cold meds and throat lozenges when they’re on sale or when you have coupons. Buy for your whole family, because there’s a good chance that once one person gets sick, everyone else won’t be too far behind.

Pay Attention to Your Body

You know how a cold should feel. If you aren’t getting better after a few days, consider seeing a Dr. You may even have the option to use a service like TeleDoc to connect with one without even leaving home. Don’t ignore your sickness and try to power through. Do everyone else a favor and stay home if you’re coughing and sneezing all over, too!

Emergency Fund

If you’re sick and need to seek medical care, but you don’t have insurance or have a lousy plan, you have to have an emergency fund! Make sure you’re setting some money aside for medical emergencies. A cold may not seem like a big deal until it is. When it doesn’t get better and just won’t quit, it’s time to admit you may need a little help from a professional.

I’m happy to report that I’m on my last few days of antibiotics and feeling much, much better. I’m so ready to come out of hibernation. It’s going to be spring soon, right?

Have you been healthy this winter, or has your family been hit with a cold that won’t quit?

09 comments on “The Cost of a Cold

  • DC @ Young Adult Money , Direct link to comment

    Actually I think you are really smart for waiting. Doctors are starting to be more vigilant about not giving out antibiotics unless someone has had sinus-infection symptons for 7-10 days. Granted, you might not have to come back and have another checkup as they may say to just call back in x days and they will send in the prescription.

    I’m not gonna lie, I had to laugh when you said your $100 cold/sinus infection was expensive. I have terrible allergies and chronic sinusitis. I’ve had two sinus surgeries within the past 4 years. This included seeing a specialist a number of times. Health-related issues can be very expensive, and really can come out of nowhere. I had no idea my sinus issues would result in two surgeries (and now, allergy immunotherapy). Needless to say, YES my sinus infections have been expensive!

  • Abigail @ipickuppennies , Direct link to comment

    My husband got that nasty, nasty cold going around. We kept a close eye on it because, in previous years, colds have morphed into pneumonia. Probably because he already has asthma, so he can’t expel as much as he’d like. (I know, ew.)

    Right as he was getting better, I started getting sick. Luckily, we already had the medication I needed. So between the two of us, we went through about 3 boxes over the course of 2.5 weeks. I kept on top of the meds and apparently got lucky. I never got as horribly sick as my husband.

    We definitely saved on food because my husband loses his appetite when he’s sick. So very little fast food and lots of cereal.

  • Tennille , Direct link to comment

    So many people only think about the co-pay when they get sick and have to go to the doctor’s office. They don’t included the “extras” we need to make us feel better OR the lost wages. Being sick, especially when you have a family can get quite costly!

    I am glad to hear that you are all feeling much better!

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach , Direct link to comment

    It seems so many people have had something worse than a cold this season. I’m knocking hard on wood that I can make it through the season without getting something! When I do my money goes towards really soft kleenex and nasal decongestant. Hope you feel better!

  • Kara @ The Daily Whisk , Direct link to comment

    Glad you are feeling better! It’s been a nasty winter for colds and illness!

  • Kristin , Direct link to comment

    This has been the worst winter for me ever! I get a cold here and there, but in December my cold turned into bronchitis. I kept waiting and waiting for my meds to kick in and help, but they didn’t work. I finally felt so horrible and went to the ER and ended up collapsing. I ended up in ICU for a week with pneumonia and was on bed rest for another 2 weeks afterwards!

    Never again will I just wait for meds to kick in – clearly they weren’t working and I should have gone back to the doctor and trusted my gut something was seriously wrong!

    It’s definitely been $$$ but my insurance has covered a lot of my bills.

    • Lauren , Direct link to comment

      Oh my, that is just terrible! The Dr. I saw said there was a lot of bad stuff going around this winter, beyond the common cold, and it definitely seems like so many people were hit with something.

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde , Direct link to comment

    This winter has been an expensive one for us because my son caught a really bad cold and we had to take him to the doctor’s office twice to make sure it wasn’t something contagious like strep. Each doctor’s visit costs us around $60 out of pocket, not to mention his cold meds. Spring cannot come soon enough for us!

    • Lauren , Direct link to comment

      aww, poor little guy 🙁 Hope he’s feeling better. It’s got to start warming up and drying out soon…that’s what I keep telling myself on these 25 degree days!

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