One of the main things that France has that many non-French people lust after is ... no, not wine ! ... a cracking health system. If you need to see a specialist, you can pretty much guarantee you'll get an appointment very swiftly (unless it's for an eye test - there's a 6 month wait for those). But, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. While the Sécurité Sociale (the French version of the NHS) picks up the tab for a large proportion of your health costs, you need to pay for a Mutuelle - private health insurance - to make sure everything is covered. This leads to a culture where nobody really bothers with over-the-counter medicines because they are not reimbursed - you need to go to the doctor for a prescription for even the simplest of things so that you get your money back. Every time I see my doctor, he asks if I want a top-up of common things like paracetamol or children's liquid paracetamol and I know lots of people do stockpile these sorts of things, grabbing them when they can when they visited the doctor for something completely different.
While I'm not anti-medication, I do prefer natural remedies where possible and I'm really pleased to see that my French GP is the same. He often laughs at the Brits' sheer horror at the mention of suppositories, which are regularly prescribed in France, especially for babies, but that the Brits would rather avoid. He often offers me things on prescription but also offers a non-pharmaceutical remedy that I could try too. Some of them I've adopted and some of them I haven't because they just sound too horrible ! Here are the most common ones that I hear, either from the doctor or French friends and family.
Upset stomachs - Drink the water that is left behind after cooking rice. Tastes absolutely vile but very effective, apparently.
Sickness - Sip flat coke. Rub lemon or lavender essential oil on your temples (especially good for travel sickness).
Blocked noses in children - This is where I first discovered Sterimar, a natural saltwater nasal spray. French paediatricians suggest using it as a matter of course right from day one to gently clear out the muck from babies' noses but also to prevent colds and sniffles taking hold in the first place. Baby nose aspirators are also on the must-buy lists of baby equipment (either ones that you suck with your mouth, electric ones or ones with rubber bulbs to create suction.) Gross but effective.
New-mum pelvic floor physiotherapy - All new mums are entitled to 10 totally free sessions of physiotherapy, either to reinforce your abs or your pelvic floor muscles. I ran away in horror at this idea but there are various options, most commonly using electrical stimulus (think Slendertone for your nether regions!), bio-feedback (something to do with a sonar sensor up your lady garden to see if you're contracting the right muscles) or using the therapist's fingers to evaluate muscle control - eeeek. Some physiotherapists even use ballons filled with water or air - I swear I'm not making this up, look right here if you don't believe me ! *Runs away and hides* !
Mouth ulcers and sore throats - Gargle with salt water.
Coughs and sore throats - A spoonful of honey.
The start of a cold (for adults) - A mug of grog (rum or whisky and hot water, with a spoonful of honey if desired) or hot wine.
I've been in France for so long that I don't really actually know if these are all used as natural remedies or not in England or whether they're just French old wives' tales. I can tell you that Sterimar has been adopted by me and the grog/hot wine by Madhouse Daddy Mike if that helps though !
Disclosure : While this isn't a sponsored post, I do receive a financial contribution from Sterimar for getting involved in Mummy Ambassador activities on their facebook page and other social media platforms. I was using Sterimar long before they asked me to be an Ambassador though !
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