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Feeling Sick? How to Know if You Should Go to Work or Stay Home

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It's happened to everyone at some point. You wake up and, almost instantly, you know that something is off. Maybe your throat's a little scratchy, or perhaps you're experiencing some body aches.


Depending on your symptoms, it can be hard to tell if you need to take a sick day or if you're able to push through and go to work.


Keep these guidelines in mind to help you make the right decision for yourself and your coworkers.

1. You're Just Starting to Feel Sick

If you're just starting to experience symptoms and they don't seem too serious, you might be tempted to go ahead and go to work. The problem with this, though, is that the beginning of your illness is the time when you're usually the most contagious.



Keep in mind, too, that if you stay home and rest right when you start feeling sick, you have a better chance of fighting the sickness off and shortening the amount of time that you're actually sick.


Lots of people try to tough a sickness out in the beginning, but because they don't give their body sufficient rest, they end up prolonging their illness and dragging out their symptoms.


It's especially important for you to take a day off when your symptoms show up if you work with vulnerable populations like children, people with suppressed immune systems, or older adults.

2. You Have Any of These Symptoms

As soon as any of the following symptoms present themselves, you need to call in sick:


  • Fever

  • Acute diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Acute respiratory symptoms (runny nose, cough, wheezing, shortness of breath etc.)

  • Body aches


These symptoms often indicate that you are dealing with a contagious illness like a cold, influenza, or a gastrointestinal virus. These kinds of sicknesses spread fast, so it's best to protect your co-workers and stay home if you notice any of the symptoms listed above.


Even if you don't have a contagious illness, if you're experiencing any of these other symptoms, you should still stay home from work.


  • Bladder or urinary tract infections

  • Vertigo

  • Severe back or joint pain that hinders your ability to meet your work responsibilities


These conditions will likely affect your productivity, so it's better to just take a day off and let yourself recover.

3. You're Taking Medications That Will Interfere with Your Job

Many medications — especially those meant to treat the flu or a cold — come with unpleasant side-effects like extreme fatigue, foggy thinking, and dizziness.


These kinds of drugs might relieve your symptoms, but they can also make it very difficult for you to get work done effectively.


If you're not going to be able to perform well at work, or if you think you might end up making a mistake that could affect you, your clients, or anyone else you work with, it's better to just stay home and rest.


If you have lots of menial tasks that need to get done and you're not contagious, you might be able to go to work and tackle those less-important items on your to-do list. You can leave the more complicated stuff for when you're feeling more mentally sharp.

How to Speed Up Recovery

If you do decide that it's best to take a sick day, give these tips a try to speed up your recovery and get back to the office as soon as possible:


  • Sleep as much as possible. You can use a laptop desk and do some work in bed, but don't be so focused on staying caught up that you forget to rest.

  • Stay hydrated with lots of water, juice, tea, and broth.

  • Stay warm with lots of blankets, and take a hot shower or bath.

  • Try natural cold and flu remedies like zinc, vitamin C, and elderberry.


In a world where everyone is told to grind, grind, grind, it's hard to know when to take a break. But, remember that your health needs to come first.


If you're starting to feel sick, make sure you keep these tips in mind so you'll know if you can go to work or if you need to stay home.