When to stay home sick from work

When to Stay Home Sick

What will it take, office trouper, to finally end your Cal Ripken-esque streak of consecutive days of work without calling in sick?

With flu season approaching — and let’s assume most people will have received an annual flu vaccination — you and your work ethic should prepare for some down time if you’ve obviously become contagious (hack, hack) or developed a fever. Don’t be a hero. You do not want to put fellow workers at risk, whether you have the flu, pinkeye, severe cold or other infection.

Most people who get the flu know it. Symptoms include cough, sore throat, runny (or stuffy) nose, headache, body aches, fatigue, chills, possibly vomiting or diarrhea and fever. (Though the body’s average temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, most experts consider a fever at least 100 degrees.)

A fever should end your streak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in fact, suggests staying home at least 24 hours after a fever subsides. Otherwise, consider how going to work might extend your illness and recklessly spread your illness throughout the office, a sure  way to endanger that Employee of the Year award.

Sometimes, the flu becomes more serious than these typical symptoms. The CDC identifies these emergency warning signs:


  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen.
  • Sudden dizziness.
  • Confusion.
  • Severe or persistent vomiting.
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.


  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing.
  • Bluish skin color.
  • Not drinking enough fluids.
  • Not waking up or not interacting.
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held.
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
  • Fever with a rash.

Get immediate medical help for an infant with any of these signs:

  • Inability to eat.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • No tears when crying.
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal.

Young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older and those with certain medical conditions have a high risk of flu-related complications.

 Anyone who has a temperature higher than 100.4, experiences severe or unusual symptoms or symptoms that last more than 10 days should see a doctor. Your doctor might prescribe antiviral drugs, but rest will hasten any recovery from a mild case of flu. A child younger than 3 months who has a fever should see a doctor immediately.

To lower your cold or flu risk:

  • Wash you hands frequently with soap and water. (Viruses that cause illness live on your hands.) Where soap and water is not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains alcohol.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. (Viruses have many gateways into the human body.)
  • Avoid people who are sick. Don’t let their illness become yours.

It’s still your call whether to take a sick day.

If you do report to work when sick, says the CDC, avoid close contact (no shaking hands or high-fives), cough or sneeze into a tissue — or, when unavailable, the upper part of a shirt sleeve covering both mouth and nose — wash hands frequently and disinfect surfaces you touch frequently such as doorknobs or the office coffee pot.