How to cope with a French cold

I'm tired of gray skies. Looking at photos of sunnier days in Guéret makes me feel better.

I’m tired of gray skies. Looking at photos of sunnier days in Guéret makes me feel better.

This past week, I had a run-of-the-mill cold. You know: sneezing, coughing, fever, and a runny/stuffy nose. (How is it possible to have both at once?) Anyway, all is fine now, and I’m vanquishing the last remnants of my cold.

I had a fever Friday, and it just so happened I didn’t have work, so I stayed in bed all day reading French novels watching movies. I went to work Monday, still with a stuffed nose and a nagging cough, but feeling markedly better. When my coworkers heard my cough, they asked if I was sick. I said I was sick a few days ago, but now I’m getting over it. And the teachers asked if I went to a doctor and encouraged me to take off work if I was sick. No, no, I explained, it’s just a cold. They reassured me that I could take off work if I was unwell.

The French seem much more apt to go to the doctor than Americans. If I was in the United States and told someone I went to a doctor because I was sick, they would know it was serious. You don’t go to a doctor for a simple cold. That’s time and money spent. But here, the French don’t hesitate to go to the doctor. A French teenager once told me she goes to the doctor if she has a headache. This attitude sure explains why there’s such a large number of pharmacies in France. (They’re on almost every corner.)

Perhaps the difference in attitudes stems from the difference between our health care systems. In America, it costs good money to go the doctor and get the resulting prescription medicine, so we won’t bother with it unless we’re pretty sick. When I was in the U.S. about six months ago, I had a skin rash and went to the doctor; the doctor visit and medicine I needed ended up costing almost $200 — and that was with insurance.

France has universal health care provided by the government, so you already pay into the health care system through your monthly paycheck. After you pay into it, costs for doctor visits and prescriptions aren’t high. So logically, why not use the system if you can?

With universal health care coming to the U.S., it will be interesting to see if going to the doctor becomes as routine as in France.


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