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When to Stay Home from Work

Viruses are everywhere. Don't be the one responsible for spreading them.

You might think you're being a dedicated employee by "powering through" the workday, even though you might be feeling ill. In fact, the opposite is true. You won't do your job optimally if you're dragging, and you might drag your co-workers down with you.

In fact, most HR execs are recommending employers insist their employees stay home, during the threat of the coronavirus. "So it's better for both you and business if you stay home when you're sick," says David Geier, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, South Carolina. 

Here are the scenarios in which you should always call in, then head back to bed.


When You Have a Cold

Ill person blowing his nose with closed eyes

"I recommend that people stay home from work when they have a cold," says Dr. Geier, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, South Carolina. "The common cold is very easily spread to co-workers, potentially getting them sick for days."

The Rx: Avoiding work is not the only thing you should avoid.  Don't miss these Things You Should Never Do When You Have a Cold if you want to recover as quickly as possible.


When You're Coughing or Sneezing


"Coughs and sneezes are not only annoying but spread germs as well," says Thomas Horowitz, DO, of CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles. "More than ever, we suggest you stay home with these unless you clearly know they are from a non-infectious cause, such as allergies." 

The Rx: Sometimes serious illnesses don't scream—they whisper, making their presence known with vague, nonspecific symptoms that can easily be brushed off. Recognize them by reading these 40 Silent Signs of Illness.


When You Have a Fever

woman is looking at the thermometer. She has fever

Your mom's old standard for a justified school absence applies to you now, too. "Any fever should be considered an infection," says Horowitz. Treat your fever with rest and fluids; call your doctor if you're running a temperature of 103 or higher.

The Rx: While staying home, get back into shape trying these proven Cures for Every Cold Symptom, According to Doctors.


When You're Vomiting or Have Diarrhea

"Diarrhea is often associated with illnesses you would not want and could be contagious," says Horowitz. "Honor your coworkers and avoid them until you have a resolution of symptoms or medical clearance."

The Rx: Stay safe and far from the loo by avoiding these 50 Unhealthiest Things That You Touch Every Single Day.


When You're Still Contagious

Doctors work at the desk

When you're coming down with something, being initially contagious may be beyond your control. But you can do your co-workers a solid by not going back to work too early, while you're still able to transmit your illness. "It's important to consider that you're contagious to others even before you even have symptoms," says Geier. "You can share cold germs from one day before symptoms begin until five to seven days later, even if the symptoms have gone away." Not sure if you're contagious or should return to work? Give your doctor a call. 

The Rx: If you really have to leave the house, there are a number of mistakes that can jeopardize your and other people's health. Make sure you avoid these 30 Health Mistakes You're Making in Public.


When to Get Back to Office


When you get better. How to get better? Some good ground rules for ensuring you get better ASAP: "Get rest. Drink plenty of fluids," says Julia Blank, MD, family medicine physician at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. "For some viral respiratory infections, you can also take over the counter supplements like zinc and elderberry to reduce severity and shorten the course of illness. And if your symptoms are getting worse rather than getting better, see your doctor."

The Rx: When the bug strikes there are scientifically proven things you can do to make it less horrible. We asked doctors and nurses, and here's exactly what advice they said to take—and what they take themselves: 20 Cold and Flu Remedies, According to Medical Experts.


What to Avoid When You Are Back in the Office

woman with cold, working on laptop computer, coughing and sneezing

When you are focusing on your work it's easy for unhealthy choices to slip in and become habits. But recognizing them can lead to easy changes for the better: Read what experts say you're probably doing in the office that's ruining your physical and mental health in these Things You Do In The Office That Are Ruining Your Health.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael