An unaffordable Lesson

We were visiting LA this October and my daughter was suffering from earache and fever. As foreigners, we fell into a panic because we were out of town. We called her doctor, who suggested us to take her to a walk-in urgent center since she might need antibiotics for the infection.

We didn’t worry much about the fee, given that we pay  every month a big amount of money for the medical insurance. It was later that we realized that we had committed a huge mistake by going to the children’s hospital emergency room. But it was a mistake that we could not avoid. Who would have time to google the difference between an urgent care center and the emergency center?

We were not happy in the waiting room but surprised by the three hours that passed by before being checked up. Claire had ear infection and needed antibiotics. 5 minutes later, we were ready to go.

Then, the story began. At the door, we were asked to pay 150 dollars for the co-pay. I paid although the fee did surprise me. Then, one week later, we got another bill which said that the treatment cost 166 dollars and that besides the insurance, we still should pay 114 dollars by ourselves. I accepted and paid.  Another week later, we got a second bill which listed 695 dollars for the hospital charges. It is said that our insurance covered 184 and we still owe 360 dollars to the hospital. I was shocked.

I never expected to pay in total 861 dollars for an ear infection treatment which lasted 5 minutes. Even with a good insurance coverage, we still should pay 624 dollars by ourselves. That was crazy.

So I asked my friends for advice. All I got was the same anger against the medical service and the suggestion to avoid any contact with hospitals and doctors. They told me that I mad a huge mistake to go to the emergency room, that gave me the only reason to accept the situation.

I don’t know how people can handle such situation if they are not familiar with the system and have no courage to fight back. An individual will never win the battle against a huge and complicated system. It’s all-consuming.

Does Cold increase odds of catching cold?

I grew up believing that cold is not the main reason to explain why people catch cold. As Dr.Aaron E. Carroll, who asks readers to repeat with him the scientific claim: Cold does not increase odds of catching cold, I was surprised by the power of several myths which still haunt so many people.

However, when I was raising my daughter, I tended to give up my reason and dressed her more and more warmly in winter. Frequently and easily, she caught cold. She fell sick when she was over covered. Then, we tried to expose her more to cold weather. She wore less and fell sick. We got confused. In summer, cold and infections still bothered her and our whole family. Definitely, her immune system didn’t do a good job.

I read more and more books which explain the Chinese traditional medicine. Yet until now, I’m not convinced by most of those traditional ideas, but I became more vigilant to one idea: the balance of body’s inner temperature and the outside temperature. My grandmother summarize the reason of common cold : Inner Hot outside Cold. For her, to avoid the cold, one needs to keep his inner temperature normal, even cold, but never hot.

Foreign people may find it weird that Chinese medicine attributes warmth and coldness to every food. For example, meat is believed to contribute to the body’s inner warmth while most of fruits are called “cold”. Chicken is very hot while duck tends to be cold. Watermelon is very cold, apple is neutral while mango is very hot. They all affect the blood temperature.In a meal, you should better calculate the balance, in order to keep a healthy diet.

For example, if one eats too much candy, which is very hot for the body, he may probably have digestion problem, even constipation. Constipation is not a big deal but indicates that the inner temperature is above a normal level. At this time, if he goes to a very cold place, especially a windy cold place, he can easily catch cold.”You have inner fire!” Chinese medicine doctors always conclude. If the body doesn’t have efficient ways to evacuate the fire, one may have fever. That may also explain why bloodletting was practiced both in early Europe and in China.

Another example is that we get warm, even hot when we do sports. We are sweating, because our inner temperature should be kept normal. Then if we hurry to a air-conditioned room, we can easily sneeze and have running nose, which may be the first symptom of a cold.”Don’t let the cold intrude, you will pay for it by all kinds of ache.” reminded all Chinese medicine doctors. In winter, children overdressed are more likely to sweat, thus to get cold.

For my grandmother, who practices a vegetarian diet for more than twenty years, cold is not awful. “Never create inner fire, by eating wrong things or by being angry,” that is her rule. She always has cold hands and cold feet, but staying cool is important to her. The most important parts of the body, according to my grand parents, are our stomach and tummy. In any season, I was not allowed to eat ice cream, which is believed definitely harmful for the digestion system. “You can cool down with old water shower, but never drink iced water”, repeated my mom, “it’s difficult to have a good stomach.

There are many reasons to make us sick and every one has different habitudes and different feelings to the same temperature. I am always suspicious with Chinese medicine practice. Nevertheless, to make Claire healthier, I try to control her digestion and make sure that she doesn’t have the “inner fire”, especially when the temperature gap is huge between outside place and inside place.

Cold isn’t the main reason to trigger a cold. Stay cool.