Working with a fever

How Long Should You Stay Home From Work When You Have The Flu? A Lot Of People Head Back Far Too Soon

One of the hottest viral trends is this great flu season we have going on. While the severity of each flu season is hard to predict, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency recommends getting your flu shot and taking the virus seriously — even if it gets in the way of work. In fact, chances are if you have the flu, you should stay home from work longer than you think.

“In all seriousness, if you want to be 100% safe stay out of work for a full week,” Dr. James Wantuck, MD, Chief Medical Officer and co-founder of leading virtual health platform PlushCare tells Bustle. That being said, when you’re sneezing up a storm, it can be hard to relax when you’re worried about your next paycheck. “For most people this is not practical,” Dr. Wantuck acknowledges, “and I might recommend going back in once your fever is gone and your cough and mucous production are manageable.” He also suggests wearing a mask to protect the people around you.

Similarly, the CDC says you should stay home from work for at least 24 hours after your fever goes away. That’s right — not after you just “feel better,” but when the fever is actually broken and you’re no longer taking fever reducing medicine. It’s worth noting, as the CDC points out, that you can have the flu and not have a fever. In that case, you should stay home a minimum of four days after you started noticing flu symptoms.

Unfortunately, you can spread the flu before you even know you have it. “In otherwise healthy adults, you are infectious from 1 to 2 days before you have symptoms all the way to one week later,” Dr. Wantuck explains. “The peak in infectiousness is on the first day of symptoms and declines rapidly after that.”

It’s hard to stay in when you’re sick, but you should absolutely give your body the time it needs to recuperate — for your own sake and everyone else’s. According to CBS, in a survey of 1,800 American adults, 75% of people ages 18 to 34 admitted to venturing out while sick, compared to only 56% of the older demographic. This, unfortunately, puts not only yourself at risk, but everyone you come into contact with.

So how long will it take you to get over the flu, then? According to Web MD, how quickly you recover from the flu depends on how healthy you are, so hopefully you’ve been getting plenty of sleep and respecting your body’s signals even before the flu hit. In general, healthy people should get over a cold completely in seven to 10 days. Flu symptoms, meanwhile, should completely go away after about five days, but it’s actually pretty common to feel weak a few days longer. Just don’t strain yourself, or you’ll be in off-on recovery mode for far longer than you anticipated. If your symptoms persist and it’s been one to two weeks, let your doctor know.

The scary sitch is if your health is already compromised, these viruses can develop into high risk illnesses that are much worse than the flu, like pneumonia or inflammation. And you’re not the only one at risk — even if you feel up to going to work, you’re still possibly spreading the flu not just to your healthier friends and coworkers, but to people it may hit a lot harder, like the young, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with preexisting conditions that weaken their immune systems.

Ultimately, the flu is no small matter; during the 2018-2019 flu season, 42.9 million people got sick and at least 36,400 died, according to CDC estimates. So when in doubt, stay home — not just for your own health, but everyone else’s, too. And if you’re worried about how your manager will react, Dr. Wantuck says having a doctor’s note can be helpful. On top of that, he explains, you can respectfully clarify that the “real reason you are staying home is to protect them (and their family).”


Dr. James Wantuck, MD, Chief Medical Officer and co-founder of leading virtual health platform PlushCare

Studies referenced:

Xu X, Blanton L, Elal AI, et al. Update: Influenza Activity in the United States During the 2018–19 Season and Composition of the 2019–20 Influenza Vaccine. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:544–551. DOI: icon.

5 Signs You’re Too Sick for Work

If medications interfere with your job, stay home.

Deciding that you are too sick to work is, for many people, wrenching. You probably could tough out a bad cold, but you don’t want to expose your co-workers and the public to a contagious illness. (Plus, no one wants to be the person in the office who can’t stop coughing!)

“Going to work means we get paid, the workplace is staffed, your co-workers don’t have more to do,” says Thomas Fekete, MD, section chief of infectious diseases at Temple University in Philadelphia. “Staying home may mean you, don’t get paid, or you have to use sick time. It’s a tough call.”

To help you resolve your dilemma, here are five ways to tell if you’re too sick to work and should stay home instead:

1. You have a contagious illness. As rotten as you feel right now, think about how bad you’ll feel if you do go to work and everyone else gets whatever you have, too. The problem, Dr. Fekete says, is that most of us are wrong about when to stay home. “The most contagious period is at the beginning, before you get really sick,” he says. So, if you go to bed feeling slightly sick, and wake up feeling a bit under the weather, that’s the day to stay home. The following days, when you actually will feel sicker, are days when you are less likely to share your contagious illness. Of course, if you work with vulnerable populations, such as hospitalized patients, elderly people, young children, or people with impaired immune systems, you may need to review your employer’s policies about when you can go back to work. And while you’re staying home, Fekete advises steering clear of other germy public situations, such as the grocery store, library, or movie theatre.

2. You’re worse than you think. “Most of us are sicker than we think we are,” says Fekete. The problem, again, is the first 6 to 12 hours, when your symptoms can get markedly worse. This means that by the time you start to feel really rotten or have bad symptoms, you might already be at work. One of the measures of health we all look at is fever, but that actually can be relatively easily managed with medication, says Fekete, as can the aches and pains that go with it. But if your fever is accompanied by weakness and confusion, or diarrhea or vomiting you can’t control, stay home. Fekete recommends making the call yourself on day one, but if you think you need to stay home for a second day, call your doctor for advice.

RELATED: How Fast Can a Virus Spread? Faster Than You Think

3. Your workplace isn’t “sick friendly.” Most people really can power through at work without making their cold or flu worse or getting other people sick — if they have the right accommodations. But you have to consider where you work. Some factors that might make it worth your while to stay home, even if you think you could get to the end of the day, include:

  • Limited or tightly controlled access to a bathroom during the day
  • Little or no ability to wash your hands often or cleanly dispose of facial tissue after you sneeze or wipe your nose
  • Nowhere to store or use any medication you need
  • Working directly with the public or with food that goes to the public — it would be unprofessional to sneeze, cough, and sniffle under these circumstances
  • You have to make life or death decisions (like a surgeon or an airplane pilot)
  • You work outside in the heat or in a strenuous job, like construction, and you don’t have the option of doing a more low-key task for a day or two

4. Your medications interfere with your job. This is an instance where you have to know yourself. Some people can take a cold or flu medication without side effects while others find themselves struggling with daytime sleepiness and foggy thinking. Antihistamines are particularly likely to cause this response, as are any medications that advertise their ability to help you sleep at night. Even if you’re just foggy-headed, “that’s not the day you want to make the company budget or closing arguments at court,” says Fekete. One option is to go to work and operate on a reduced schedule.

5. Your kids are getting sick. “Kids staying home is, on average, better for society because kids are much better at transmitting these things among themselves,” Fekete says. So if you are under the weather and you suspect they are too, stay home with the kids and take your entire family out of the contagious illness loop, at least for one day. Then, once you all get through the early day or two of an illness, you can probably all get back to your routines, even if you still aren’t feeling 100 percent.

Finally, says Fekete, it’s important to participate in and advocate for a supportive work environment. Your co-workers will have to pick up the slack when you are out, so do the same for them, without complaining or second-guessing how sick they were. Look into whether your employer has a forgiving policy toward sick days, and advocate for change if there isn’t one.

CDC shortens stay at home for those with flu symptoms

Aug 6, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – In a revision of its advice for how long those who are sick with the novel H1N1 virus should stay away from others, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday shortened the time period, which may reduce some of the pandemic’s absence burden on businesses and schools.

The new exclusion guidance urges people with influenza-like illnesses to stay home at least 24 hours after they are free of a fever (in the absence of fever-reducing medication), defined as 100°F, which in most cases ranges from 3 to 5 days.

Earlier recommendations urged people to stay home for 7 days after illness onset or for 24 hours after symptoms resolve, whichever was longer. Besides businesses and schools, the guidance also applies to camps, mass gatherings, and other community settings.

However, the new recommendations do not apply to healthcare settings. People working or visiting healthcare facilities should still observe the earlier, longer-period exclusion guidance.

The CDC also emphasized that more stringent and longer exclusions may be needed for sick people who will return to settings where they have contact with people who have underlying medical conditions, such as camps for children with asthma or daycare centers that children younger than 5 attend.

“Decisions about extending the exclusion period should be made at the community level, in conjunction with local and state officials,” the CDC said.

At a June teleconference that the CDC hosted for businesses in the wake of the World Health Organization’s pandemic declaration, some businesses asked for clarifications on how long people with novel flu infections should stay home before returning for work.

Lisa Koonin, MN, MPH, a senior adviser with the CDC’s influenza coordination unit who co-hosted the CDC business teleconference, told CIDRAP News today that the previous guidance was based on an early assessment of novel flu illnesses. She said the new recommendation is based on household contact studies. People seem to be most infectious the first day of a fever, which for most people goes away after 2 to 4 days.

Koonin said businesses and schools want to decrease absenteeism, but the CDC wanted to base any modification of its recommendations on scientific findings. “But if the outbreak becomes more severe, the CDC may recommend a longer exclusionary period because of the need to be more cautious,” she said.

In its recommendation, the CDC said exclusion periods should apply even if antiviral medications are used and that when people return to work or school they should continue to observe respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene and avoid people who are in high-risk groups.

John Budd, PhD, chair of human resources and industrial relations at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, hinted that the new recommendations are likely to be well received by the business community. “The longer individuals are absent, the more disruptive it is for the workplace,” he said.

See also:

Aug 5 CDC recommendations on duration of self-isolation

Jun 12 CIDRAP News story “Pandemic declaration prompts CDC huddle with businesses”

(MoneyWatch) “My boss doesn’t believe I had the flu, and that was the reason I missed a week of work. What should I do?”

A reader sent me this question last week, and it occurred to me that during this already record-breaking flu season this issue is going to come up in offices across the country. So I asked career expert Caroline Ceniza-Levine, partner with the SixFigureStart career consulting firm in New York for her advice. Although the answer will certainly depend on your particular relationship with your boss, here are some things she says to consider.

Know your office guidelines for illness. If your office only asks for your honesty, great. “But there are many workplaces where absence over consecutive days requires a doctor’s note,” notes Ceniza-Levine. Try not to take it personally. “There are good reasons for employers to require medical documentation of prolonged absence. They need to set standards for all to follow so as not to appear as if they are treating some people preferentially over others,” she says. Some doctors may write a note after documenting a phone call with you, but most will need to see you.

Share your perspective. If your boss is aggravated by your sick days, he or she may simply be irritated with a string of unexplained absences in your group. If you can’t document your illness (and you don’t look particularly ill once you’re back), you’ll want to share why you didn’t push yourself to come in. “Gently remind him or her that you didn’t want to infect others and have the group fall further behind. There are ways to make a strong case that don’t require you making your boss feel bad and putting him or her on the defensive,” Ceniza-Levine says.

Come back with a catch-up plan. Your boss wants your work to get done, so on your first day back explain how you’ll get back on track, Ceniza-Levine says. Ask for an update on things that have come up while you were out, summaries of meetings you missed and about any concerns they might have — and address them.

If you follow company protocol, show your reasoning and minimize any interruption to the flow of work but your boss is still giving you a hard time, you may have to speak to HR and try to move to a different team. You might even need to start looking for a new job.

“Yes, you need to take care of your health, and in an ideal world employers would wholeheartedly support this, but that may not always be true. You need to decide how you want to respond in that event,” Ceniza-Levine says.

Has your boss ever held a sick day against you? Please sign in and share in the comments section.

The flu causes more missed work time than other illnesses

Employees with laboratory-confirmed influenza have more lost work time — including absences and reduced productivity while at work—compared to those with other types of acute respiratory illness (ARI), reports a study in the December Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

“Compared to non-influenza ARI, with influenza lose an additional half-day of work due to absenteeism/presenteeism over the week following symptom onset,” writes Jeffrey J. Van Wormer, PhD, and colleagues of Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, Marshfield, Wisc.

The study included data on 1,278 employed adults who had ARI over four influenza seasons, from 2012-13 to 2015-16. As part of a vaccine effectiveness study, all underwent laboratory tests to confirm the presence or absence of influenza virus infection.

Testing confirmed influenza in 470 employees. Productivity loss over seven to 17 days after initial symptoms was compared for workers with influenza versus non-influenza ARI. Productivity loss included not only absenteeism but also presenteeism: days the employee was at work but less productive due to illness.
Employees with confirmed influenza lost an average 69 percent of expected work hours, compared to 58 percent for those with non-influenza ARI. “A typical full-time employee could expect to lose about 3½ of their 5 work days in a given week…due to absenteeism and presenteeism from an influenza infection,” the researchers write. Productivity loss was similar for workers infected with different influenza virus strains.

While previous studies have suggested high productivity losses due to influenza, few studies have included laboratory testing to confirm influenza. Dr. Van Wormer and colleagues conclude: “Future research should explore specific financial returns on employer investments in initiatives and policies designed to help their employees prevent seasonal influenza transmission and infection, and minimize the economic impact of ARI.”

Citation — Van Wormer JJ, King JP, Gajewski A, et al. Influenza and workplace productivity loss in working adults. J Occup Environ Med. 2017;59(12):1135-9.

About ACOEM — ACOEM (, an international society of 4,500 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.

About the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine — The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine ( is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.

Going to work with the flu isn’t rugged — it’s reckless. You know who you are.

(iStock) By Jennifer Orange January 23, 2018

Every winter, I cringe as I hear about people going to work and school with the flu, spreading it to unsuspecting friends and colleagues under the banner that they are needed and can tough it out.

It’s an awful flu season this year, and there have been terribly sad cases of people, including otherwise healthy children, dying from it. Maybe this will be the year when people who are sick will stay home until they are not contagious. Maybe this is the year we’ll realize our culture of working at all costs is not only bad for us but puts others at risk.

Our daughter Julia, who is 13, is one of those people at risk. Julia has an autoimmune disease I couldn’t even pronounce when she was diagnosed 10 years ago. The shortened versions are APS Type 1, or APECED. The disease is a cruel and complex combination of autoimmune attacks on various organs. It makes patients vulnerable to lung and yeast infections, as well as parathyroid and adrenal failure.

It took years for an amazing team at SickKids Hospital in Toronto and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda to get a handle on how to manage Julia’s symptoms. Now, she is doing really well. But each winter we watch in frustration as we see people make the sick march to work.

You know who you are. You wake up feeling lousy. You are clammy and have a sore throat and horrible cough. You take two Tylenol, have a cup of tea and head to work. You don’t like the other options. You would miss out on something that seems important at the time, or you may disappoint your boss or your co-workers.

You are pushing through the day even though if you stopped to think about it for a moment, you would admit that you should be home in bed. You may even have the flu. I know your kind. I was your kind. I was committed to work, my employer, my colleagues and my clients, over my own health. I was sure that I would be fine.

After dealing with Julia’s health problems, I am all too aware how reckless this is. Now I stay home when I’m sick. But I don’t always see my friends doing the same.

The flu season this year emerged earlier than usual, which is bad news for our health-care systems but particularly bad news for those whose immune systems aren’t working at full strength. These are people who were born with immune deficiencies, folks who have weak immune systems because of medical treatments such as chemotherapy, the elderly and those precious ones who were literally born yesterday.

Immune deficiencies are not obvious. They are mostly invisible conditions. But they affect more than just the individual. They affect families. If I get the flu, it is impossible for me to care for my daughter — not only because I am sick, but also because my presence in our home puts her in jeopardy.

My life changed when Julia was diagnosed with APS Type 1. Infections were a regular part of her life, and they were debilitating. For a couple of years, she was in the hospital more than she was out. Her doctors warned us about the particular risks of chickenpox and the flu.

In fact, Julia was hospitalized with the flu one week before her eighth birthday. An extremely high fever and horrible cough hit her so hard that within 12 hours we were rushing to the emergency room. She became incredibly weak, whereas she had been bouncing around in the days before. The nurses and doctors suspected the flu — mainly because of how quickly the illness affected her. She needed oxygen, IV fluids and to be isolated in a special room. No visitors other than her parents were allowed. We were told that there are not many medical options to help fight the flu. Thank goodness, she recovered.

Now we send a letter to my daughter’s entire school every fall telling families about Julia’s illness and asking them to get the flu and chickenpox vaccines and not send their kids to school sick. We tell our friends and cancel plans when there is a chance that we could be exposed to the flu. And of course, we get our flu shots.

Despite our effort to be open about the risk of the flu to Julia, people in our circle still don’t stay home when they’re ill. They confess to us in hushed tones that maybe they should have, or we hear about it from others. Sometimes people are incredibly supportive and empathetic. Sometimes people seem frustrated with the fact that we have caused them an inconvenience.

People need to reexamine their urge to be physically present at work or school when they have a contagious illness. Employers should reevaluate their policies and set examples for their employees. It will save them money. According to the CDC, the U.S. economy loses $16.3 billion in lost earnings every year because of the flu. Employees and students should know that self-care will be respected.

This year alone since October, nearly 6,500 people have been hospitalized, many of them adults older than 50 and children younger than 4, according to the CDC. The agency said 20 children have died during the current flu season.

I hear the concern that some people abuse sick days, but I see more people pushing through illness to get to work or their kids to school. We can be hard-working people and caring neighbors at the same time, and we need recognize that the way we act affects the health of others.

It is not always easy to know whether you are “sick enough” to stay home, but the sudden onset of a sore throat, fever, cough and fatigue are some of the symptoms that distinguish the flu from the common cold. And please, if you have a fever, don’t go to work or school. A fever is a clear sign of an infection and contagion. The CDC recommends staying home for 24 hours after your fever is gone without the help of fever-reducing medication.

It’s okay to stay home when you’re sick. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for the rest of us.

Jennifer Orange is the parent of a child with an immune deficiency and sits on the board of the APS Type 1 Foundation.

Teens who spend less time in front of screens are happier — up to a point, new research shows

I tried mindfulness to quit drinking. It actually worked.

With the start of cold and flu season, it’s inevitable that you’ll need to take some sick time. But some days, no matter how bad you feel, you just can’t stay home — deadlines, client meetings, software releases just won’t wait. Of course, some folks actually want to work through minor illnesses because of their commitment to their job, or a lack of sick time, or because they feel guilty having co-workers pick up their slack.

“There are a surprising number of people who don’t want to stay home and nurse a cold or a sore throat. They’d rather work through the sniffles or pounding head, and while that’s commendable, it can be difficult to work at your usual level of efficiency — and that can be worse than being missing in action at the office,” says Amanda Mitchell, corporate consultant and founder of executive coaching and management consultancy Our Corporate Life.

Here are Mitchell’s tips for handling a sick day at the office.

1. Layer up

Dress in layers in case you start to feel hot or cold, or fluctuate between the two, Mitchell says. “Working through a sick day while wearing those new sky-high heels or a swanky business suit is not a great idea. Dress professionally, yes, but also be sure to wear something that will keep you comfortable,” she says.

2. Medicate

If you have to medicate your symptoms at the office, make sure you use products that don’t make you drowsy, Mitchell says. “Whether it’s a sore throat, a cough or the common cold, avoid any products designed to help you sleep through the illness as well as any that contain alcohol,” she says. There are plenty of over-the-counter options specifically designed for daytime relief.

3. Keep it to yourself

If you make the decision to go to work despite being ill, don’t whine or complain about how crappy you feel — it’ll only make you (and everyone else around you) feel worse, Mitchell says. Not only that, they’ll worry you’re contagious.

“Do your co-workers want to hear about your pounding head or runny nose? Nope. Keep a positive attitude and try to focus on what you’re doing, not how you’re feeling,” she says.

4. Hydrate

Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, Mitchell says; it’ll help keep your head clear and you’ll cope better with your symptoms. Hot soup and tea are great options, as well as plenty of water, she says.

5. Take it easy

If you must go into the office while sick, try to make the day as easy as possible on yourself, Mitchell says. “Focus your time on necessary, but not urgent, work like administration, logistics planning or relationship building. You could even take this time to update your career achievements and accomplishments, or your LinkedIn profile,” says Mitchell. If you have major proposals or presentations due, try to reschedule them — you’ll be much more effective and efficient when you feel better.

6. Know when enough is enough

Of course, if you find your symptoms getting worse, or that you’re not as effective as you’d like to be, then call it a day (and maybe call your doctor). Sometimes, there’s no other option than to curl up in your pajamas on the couch with a box of tissues, Netflix and hot tea until you get better.

5 tips for getting through work while sick

When you’ve come down with the cold or flu, going into work can seem almost like trekking to the moon. While it’s logical that most people would stay at home to recuperate, that simply isn’t the case for many jobs. According to a survey of approximately 1,500 American office workers from Staples, nearly 50 percent of people still go into work while sick. Many people can’t take the time off or are afraid of facing consequences. Regardless, there are ways to still go into work without compromising your own health or that of your co-workers. Just heed these following tips:

“Nearly 50% of people still go into work while sick.”

Don’t overdo it
Some people like to take on a few different work-related projects at once, which keeps them feeling productive. While that’s perfectly fine when you’re at 100 percent, it’s not the best idea when you’re under the weather. Therefore, if you’re going to work while sick, try to unload your schedule. Focus on the most important tasks and don’t do anything that isn’t immediately important. Before making any modifications to your schedule, though, always consult with your supervisor and keep him or her in the loop regarding your situation.

Get plenty of sleep
As a rule, sleep is a good thing, as it helps to replenish us before the next work day and operate at or near our peak. When you’re sick, though, you already feel somewhat diminished, and not getting enough sleep can only worsen your condition. A 2015 study published in the journal SLEEP found that a good night’s rest – at least seven hours – can help you fight off infections like the cold or flu. However, sleeping isn’t always easy when you’re sick, as it’s especially difficult to breathe. To combat that, Everyday Health suggested propping your head up and maintaining a cool, dark bedroom.

Change up your diet
When you’re sick, eating isn’t always on the top of your to-do list. However, food is among your best allies in combating the cold or flu. Prevention magazine noted that there are several key foods to eat whenever you’re ill. These include revitalizing coconut water, antioxidant-rich drinks like green or black tea, and yogurt and mushrooms, which increase the disease-fighting white blood cells. Consuming some caffeine is OK if you need that mid-day boost to get through work, but consume sugary drinks and coffees very sparingly.

Minimize your interactions
In some jobs, you can solve most of your problems simply by working from home. If that’s not an option, then it’s important that you take steps to reduce the amount of exposure you have to others and in turn the risk of getting them sick. For instance, take your lunch break outside. Not only does this create distance, but Healthline noted sunshine can actually boost your mood, which can be a much better alternative than your mid-day caffeine break. Other steps include skipping certain meetings or simply patching in via phone. If you must work around others, be sure to cover your mouth with the pit of your elbow when you cough.

“There are over 100 viruses that cause the cold and flu.”

Get your flu shot
Let’s say you’ve already had the flu once this season. Does that mean you’re totally protected for the remainder of the year? Not exactly. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are over 100 viruses that cause the cold and flu, and one shot doesn’t protect you from every single one. That’s why it’s still a good idea to get a flu vaccination even if you’ve already been sick. That way, you’re doing more to protect yourself from additional viral strains.

When you need your flu shot, be sure to head to your nearby CareWell Urgent Care center. Each CareWell facility staffs a team of highly-trained physicians who can give you the necessary tools to keep you healthy and productive through every cold and flu season.

Should you go to work when you’re sick?

Do everyone a favor and keep your germs to yourself.

The odds of you getting sick this year fall somewhere between 5% and 20%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With the dreaded cold and flu season fast approaching, many Americans with fevers, coughs, and runny noses will be forced to make a decision: Go to work sick, as miserable as that may be? Or stay home to get better, but make your life miserable when you return with all the catching up you’ll have to do? Granted, not everybody has a choice. Depending on your situation, you may not have the luxury of calling in sick. But for those of you who are lucky enough to have sick days at your disposal, it can help to put yourself in your co-worker’s (healthy) shoes.

Would you want to be within sneezing distance of anyone who has a cold? (According to the New England Journal of Medicine, sneezing distance is anywhere from 3 to 26 feet.) Do you want to listen to an orchestra of gross noises that sick people regularly conduct? (Sneeze, cough, blow nose, sniffle, repeat.) Does your office supply closet contain multiple industrial-sized containers of hand sanitizer? (Probably not.) If the answers to these questions aren’t immediately clear to your germ-clogged brain, watch the video below to help you determine whether you should just call in sick or suck it up and get to work.

Why do people work when they’re sick?

There are a number of reasons people head to work armed with a bag of cough drops and a box of tissues. High job demands and job insecurity were cited as some of the top reasons people show up to work when they are ill, according to a 2014 survey by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF).

Four in 10 of American workers say they come to work sick because they have deadlines or would have too much work to make up when they return to the workplace after a sick day, according to the NSF survey. One-quarter claim they go to work sick because their boss expects them to show up no matter what. If that’s the case, then you might want to find a job that offers paid sick leave.

And if you do take a sick day, that doesn’t mean your boss or co-workers are going to take it as a sign of weakness, Monster Careers Expert Vicki Salemi says.

“You seriously need your bed and nothing but your bed when you’re sick,” she says. “I’ve seen colleagues go into work to prove something to themselves (and perhaps to show their boss how sick they really were) only for the boss to say, ‘Go home, get better.’ Although there are some bosses and co-workers who may think nothing of working through an illness, the reality is you have the right as an employee to set your own boundaries and know what you’re capable of.”

Money can be an issue, too. For some, not showing up for work can mean not getting paid. About one-third of those surveyed by NSF said they can’t afford to be sick and miss work, which you can chalk up to the fact that only 10 states plus Washington D.C. require paid sick leave.

What should you do if you’re sick?

The last place you want to be when you’re sick is at your desk. But the call is totally up to you.

“People’s systems are all different, whether you’re coming down with a cold, in a full-on cold or recuperating from the flu—this is all subjective,” Salemi says. “That said, when you wake up and literally can’t get out of bed, head is stuffy, can’t focus your eyes, that’s a sign to absolutely stay at home.”

But you definitely shouldn’t let it get to that point.

“Sometimes you don’t want to wait for a full-on cold or flu to emerge and you’ll know the signs,” Salemi says. “It’s best to stay home then, and if you have to take an additional sick day beyond that, so be it.”

Part of taking care of yourself means surrendering to the fact that you’re too sick to get to the office and get work done like you usually would. So when you tell your boss, keep it simple. Nobody wants to hear about the grimy conditions you’re in.

“Your boss’s reaction should be one of understanding and compassion,” Salemi says, “especially when taking one day can save you an entire week ahead of being on the sidelines.”

If you absolutely must go into work when you’re sick, the National Sanitation Foundation has some advice for you.

“If you are sick, try to stay home and rest at the onset of your symptoms when you are most contagious,” Rob Donofrio, Ph.D., microbiologist at NSF International, said in a press release. “However, if you must go into work, be conscientious of those around you. Fully cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, wash your hands often, disinfect areas you come into contact with—especially in common areas—and try to keep your distance from co-workers.”

What if you’re sick…of your job?

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You wake up sick with a cough, stuffy nose and a headache and the questions start. Is it the flu? Is it just a cold? Is it bronchitis? Should I go to the doctor?

“The first two days or so of most viruses, your immune system is on alert and it’s really mustering all of its components to fight this thing off,” which unfortunately results in making us feel really lousy, said Dr. John Messmer, professor of family and community medicine at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

If you don’t go to the doctor right away, there are indicators that tell you when it’s time to seek out your healthcare professional.

A good rule of thumb is, “Go see the doctor if your symptoms become unmanageable,” said Mary Miller, pharmacist and clinical trainer at Rite Aid Wellness Store in Susquehanna Township. “If you spike a high fever or have a cough that keeps you up at night, it’s time to visit your doctor,” said Miller.

You should also make an appointment if after five or six days you start to feel even worse or if you aren’t feeling better after two weeks.

“Most viruses are gone by two weeks. If you’re still coughing and still feeling ill after two weeks, you really should be seeing your doctor by that point,” Messmer said. “If you are clearly getting worse every day or you’ve been doing OK and now you’ve suddenly taken a turn for the worse, that’s when you might need something.”

People with chronic illnesses such as lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, etc. should check in with their doctors because they might be at a higher risk for infection and viruses can wreak havoc on already compromised immune systems.

Unfortunately, even if you go to your doctor and are diagnosed with a virus there isn’t a whole lot you can do.

“I tell patients, ‘I wish I had something to make you better now, but I don’t,’” Messmer said. “If it’s a virus there’s nothing we can actually do to make it get better faster. It’s going to be seven to 14 days depending on the virus and how healthy you are.”

So if not for treatment, why is it important to pay a visit to your healthcare provider?

“Sometimes you actually have to look at the person to figure it out. This is why we’re sometimes reluctant to prescribe any treatment over the phone,” Messmer said. “So it’s really not a matter of us wanting to get you in and get your co-pay, it’s really a matter of making the right diagnosis.”

If you’re sick, but not too sick, your pharmacist can be a great resource.

Miller’s Rite Aid just converted to a wellness store in June, one of 900 Rite Aid locations with that designation. The conversion includes new wellness products, expanded roles for clinical pharmacy staff and a private consultation room is available to customers who want privacy for a conversation with the pharmacist.

The most acceptable reasons to take a sick day revealed

We all know that feeling: you’ve woken up on a Monday morning with an unbearable cold or splitting headache, and the thought of a day in the office is too much to bear. Time to email the boss and explain why you won’t be coming in today.

But not all excuses for pulling a sickie are equal, it seems. A new study of 2,500 employers and employees across the UK has revealed that vomiting is (understandably, perhaps) considered the most acceptable reason to take the day off, with 73 per cent of respondents saying it would make them retreat beneath the duvet. Diarrhoea came a close second, with 71 per cent indicating they would rather not chance the journey to work.

But feeling stressed or depressed seems to earn far less sympathy, both from workers and from bosses. The study suggests you might just be expected to grin and bear it. Only 17 per cent thought mental health issues were a valid reason for sick leave – only slightly more than the percentage who would call in sick only if they had to go to hospital.

Inji Duducu, director of healthcare provider Benenden, which conducted the study, believes the statistics highlight problems in the way mental health is perceived at work.

“There seems to be a clear lack of understanding from some employers in terms of employee well-being,” she said. “There is a strong commercial case for having a healthy and engaged workforce, yet employers are evidently ignoring the impact of an employee’s physical and mental well-being on productivity, absenteeism and .”

The highest rates of absenteeism were among women aged 18 to 24 living in Edinburgh and working in the utilities sector – waste treatment, sanitation or supply of gas, electricity and water.

The survey also suggests that older employees are less inclined to take a day off than their younger colleagues. The statistics show that 63 per cent of people over 50 haven’t taken a day off this year, nearly twice the figure for those aged 18 to 24.

And despite the notorious “man flu”, men are less likely to call in sick than women. But when they do, they’re more likely to say it’s because they are feeling tired, under the weather or hung-over. Perhaps some early nights are in order.

Symptoms & Causes of Viral Gastroenteritis (“Stomach Flu”)

In this section:

  • What are the symptoms of viral gastroenteritis?
  • What are the symptoms of dehydration?
  • Seek care right away
  • What kinds of viruses cause viral gastroenteritis?
  • Do flu viruses cause viral gastroenteritis (“stomach flu”)?
  • Are viruses the only cause of gastroenteritis?
  • How does viral gastroenteritis spread?

What are the symptoms of viral gastroenteritis?

The symptoms of viral gastroenteritis include

  • watery diarrhea
  • pain or cramping in your abdomen
  • nausea or vomiting
  • sometimes fever

What are the symptoms of dehydration?

Symptoms of dehydration, the most common complication of viral gastroenteritis, may include the following in adults

  • extreme thirst and dry mouth
  • urinating less than usual
  • feeling tired
  • dark-colored urine
  • decreased skin turgor, meaning that when a person’s skin is pinched and released, the skin does not flatten back to normal right away
  • sunken eyes or cheeks
  • light-headedness or fainting

If you are the parent or caretaker of an infant or young child with viral gastroenteritis, you should watch for the following signs of dehydration

  • thirst
  • urinating less than usual, or no wet diapers for 3 hours or more
  • lack of energy
  • dry mouth
  • no tears when crying
  • decreased skin turgor
  • sunken eyes or cheeks

Seek care right away

In most cases, viral gastroenteritis is not harmful. However, viral gastroenteritis can become dangerous if it leads to dehydration. Anyone with signs or symptoms of dehydration should see a doctor right away. A person with severe dehydration may need treatment at a hospital.

Viral gastroenteritis symptoms may be similar to the symptoms of other health problems. Certain symptoms may suggest that a person has a different health problem.

The symptoms listed below may suggest that an adult or child has a severe case of viral gastroenteritis, dehydration, or a more serious health problem instead of viral gastroenteritis.


Adults with any of the following symptoms should see a doctor right away

  • change in mental state, such as irritability or lack of energy
  • diarrhea lasting more than 2 days
  • high fever
  • vomiting often
  • six or more loose stools in a day
  • severe pain in the abdomen or rectum
  • stools that are black and tarry or contain blood or pus
  • symptoms of dehydration

Adults should also see a doctor if they aren’t able to drink enough liquids or oral rehydration solutions—such as Pedialyte, Naturalyte, Infalyte, and CeraLyte—to prevent dehydration or if they do not improve after drinking oral rehydration solutions.

Older adults, pregnant women, and adults with a weakened immune system or another health condition should also see a doctor right away if they have any symptoms of viral gastroenteritis.

Infants and children

If an infant or child has signs or symptoms of viral gastroenteritis, don’t hesitate to call a doctor for advice. Diarrhea is especially dangerous in newborns and infants, leading to severe dehydration in just a day or two. A child with symptoms of dehydration can die within a day if left untreated.

If you are the parent or caretaker of an infant or child with any of the following signs or symptoms, seek a doctor’s help right away

  • change in the child’s mental state, such as irritability or lack of energy
  • diarrhea lasting more than a day
  • any fever in infants
  • high fever in older children
  • frequent loose stools
  • vomiting often
  • severe pain in the abdomen or rectum
  • signs or symptoms of dehydration
  • stools that are black and tarry or contain blood or pus

You should also seek a doctor’s help right away if a child has signs or symptoms of viral gastroenteritis and the child is an infant, was born prematurely, or has a history of other medical conditions. Also seek a doctor’s help right away if the child is not able to drink enough liquids or oral rehydration solutions to prevent dehydration or if the child does not improve after drinking oral rehydration solutions.

If a child has signs or symptoms of a viral gastroenteritis, don’t hesitate to call a doctor for advice.

What kinds of viruses cause viral gastroenteritis?

Many different viruses can cause viral gastroenteritis. The most common causes of viral gastroenteritis include

  • norovirus. Norovirus is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis. Symptoms usually begin 12 to 48 hours after you come into contact with the virus and last 1 to 3 days.2
  • rotavirus. Symptoms usually begin about 2 days after you come into contact with the virus and last for 3 to 8 days.3 Vaccines can prevent rotavirus infection.
  • adenovirus. Symptoms typically begin 3 to 10 days after you come into contact with the virus and last 1 to 2 weeks.4
  • astrovirus. Symptoms typically begin 4 to 5 days after you come into contact with the virus and last 1 to 4 days.5,6

Norovirus causes infections in people of all ages. Rotavirus, adenovirus, and astrovirus most often infect infants and young children, but they can also infect adults.

Viruses may cause viral gastroenteritis any time of the year. In the United States, norovirus, rotavirus, and astrovirus are more likely to cause infections in the winter.

Do flu viruses cause viral gastroenteritis (“stomach flu”)?

Although some people call viral gastroenteritis “stomach flu,” influenza (flu) viruses do not cause viral gastroenteritis. Flu viruses cause infections of the respiratory system, while viral gastroenteritis is an infection of the intestines.

Are viruses the only cause of gastroenteritis?

No. While viruses cause viral gastroenteritis, bacteria, parasites, and chemicals may cause other kinds of gastroenteritis.

When gastroenteritis is caused by consuming foods or drinks contaminated with viruses, bacteria, parasites, or chemicals, this is called food poisoning.

How does viral gastroenteritis spread?

Viral gastroenteritis spreads from person to person through contact with an infected person’s stool or vomit.

If you have viral gastroenteritis, viruses will be present in your stool and vomit. You may spread the virus in small bits of stool or vomit, especially if you don’t wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom and

  • touch surfaces or objects used by other people
  • prepare or serve foods and drinks for other people
  • shake hands with or touch another person

Infected people who do not have symptoms can still spread viruses. For example, norovirus may be found in your stool before you have symptoms and up to 2 weeks after you recover.2

Norovirus is especially contagious, meaning that it spreads easily from person to person. Norovirus can live for months on surfaces such as countertops and changing tables. When an infected person vomits, the virus may become airborne and land on surfaces or on another person.

Viral gastroenteritis may spread in households, day care centers and schools, nursing homes, cruise ships, restaurants, and other places where people gather in groups.

If water comes into contact with stools of infected people, the water may become contaminated with a virus. The contaminated water can spread the virus to foods or drinks, and people who consume these foods or drinks may become infected. People who swim in contaminated water may also become infected.

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