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5 Things to Consider Before Going to Work Sick

April 11, 2017 | Dr. Gregory Grant

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going into work sickYou wake up feeling achy with a scratchy throat and are debating whether to go to work or call in sick. On one hand, you don’t want to look like a slacker. But, then again, you can’t stop coughing and have three meetings scheduled.

Do you stay in bed? Or take some medicine and hope for the best?

The answer to those questions is different for everyone. Here are a few questions to ask and things to consider before going to work sick. 

  • Do I work around people with compromised immune systems? If you work with the elderly or small children, for example, your virus can easily be passed on. If that’s the case, the question is likely a matter of company policy.
  • What are your symptoms? If you’re nauseous or have a fever, the answer is obvious—stay home. Colds, however, fall into the gray area. If you’re sniffling a bit, grab some tissues and head in. If you have a productive cough or a raging headache that’s making you miserable, it might be the right call to stay home.
  • How long have you been sick? You’re most contagious during the first three days of a cold. By the fourth and fifth day, you are less contagious. By the sixth day of your cold, there is virtually no risk of infecting your coworkers. However, most employers wouldn’t approve of someone taking time off for a case of the sniffles. But, as we all know, some colds really do make you feel lousy. If that’s the case, consider staying home and resting on the day (or maybe two) you feel the worst, then take cold medicine or stock up on cough drops and return to work. Wash your hands frequently to minimize the risk of infecting the office. If you’re battling the flu, your body will usually tell you when to return to work—once your fever, nausea and chills are under control.
  • Can you work from home? If the answer is yes, then you have more leeway. Working from your kitchen table for a day or two will allow you to sleep in a bit, make yourself some nice soup for lunch and, most importantly, keep your germs to yourself. If you can avoid going to work sick without compromising productivity, it's preferable.
  • Does your job involve mitigating circumstances? If you work in construction and it’s 10 degrees out and you feel awful, stay home. If you work in food service but can’t stop sneezing, stay home. If you’re an air traffic controller, brain surgeon or professional daredevil and your cold medicine is making you groggy, please stay home!

Whether you decide to stay home or go in, you’ll want to feel better as soon as possible. Stay hydrated by drinking water, juice or clear broth and avoid coffee and alcohol. Use a cool mist vaporizer to add moisture to the air. If you do go to work, try to maximize your free time by canceling any unnecessary after-work obligations. Gargle salt water for a sore throat.

There are definitely times when you’ll need to seek medical help. If your fever isn’t getting any better, it hurts to swallow or you can’t keep anything down, it’s time to see your doctor. While coughs can last a long time, if yours is still around after two to three weeks, it’s best to make an appointment. If your throat hurts so badly that you can’t swallow, you’ll need a strep test. And if your headache or congestion won’t go away, you may need to be treated for a sinus infection.

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms—or just can’t seem to shake your cold or flu—contact us today. Same-day appointments are available by calling 419-660-2900. There are times when everyone needs a little help getting back on their feet and into the office.

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