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5 reasons to stay home when you’re sick

By The Health News Team | January 4, 2024
5 reasons to stay home when you’re sick

Would you be surprised to learn your employer really hopes you'll use your sick days when you are feeling under the weather? Well, with the current flu, COVID-19 and RSV season coming on strong, most companies don’t want you to bring your illness to work — especially if you have been diagnosed with one of these currently circulating, highly-contagious respiratory illnesses or have a fever.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should stay home from work for at least 24 hours after a fever of 100° F (or above) is gone. It’s important to note that you must take your temperature when you are not using fever-reducing medicines, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to get an accurate reading.

Even if you don’t have a fever but are showing symptoms of flu, COVID, RSV or other illnesses — cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, vomiting or diarrhea — you should call in and take a sick day. In fact, when it comes to contagious viruses, the CDC recommends you keep your germs away from your co-workers for at least 4 to 5 days after your symptoms begin, depending on the diagnosis, and talk with your doctor about appropriate testing, treatment and isolation.

5 reasons to stay home when sick

If the CDC’s recommendations won’t convince you, there are several additional reasons to take a sick day. If you stay home when feeling sick, you can:

  1. Stop the spread. A study found that a sick employee can spread their germs to up to 60% of commonly touched surfaces in the workplace in just four hours, greatly increasing the chance an illness will spread to coworkers. Even if you didn’t touch anything while at work, which is next to impossible, your illness could be spread through close talking, sneezing or coughing.

  2. Save your company money. One sick employee might not affect the bottom line, but if that employee comes to work and spreads their illness, it could lead to several sick employees and multiple sick days taken, which is certain to affect overall productivity. Experts report that the practice of coming to work when sick — sometimes called “presenteeism” — affects the U.S. economy to the tune of $150 billion in lost productivity every year. At a small company, a shared illness among employees could even shut it down for a bit.

  3. Protect others outside your company. If you share your germs with colleagues, they can then share them with their loved ones and other people they come into contact with outside the office. If any of these people are chronically ill or part of populations more likely to get sick — such as older adults and infants — your shared germs could lead to severe illness, hospitalization and even death for those most at risk.

  4. Prevent future illness. Fever and other signs of sickness are the way your body tells you it needs a break. And when you listen to your body, stay home and rest, your body rewards you. Resting when sick helps to speed up your recovery, prevent your illness from becoming more severe, and boost your immune system to decrease your risk of future illness.

  5. Catch up on pop culture. With many streaming services, there’s bound to be a few shows or movies you’d like to enjoy. A day of rest allows you to get well and catch up on what you’ve missed. Prefer to read? There is plenty of online content at your fingertips. And don’t forget the library. Your library card will get you access to free e-books and audiobooks you can download to your personal device.

Talk with your doctor if you are feeling sick and unsure if you should go to work. If you do choose to take a sick day, make sure you protect others in your home by keeping your distance, washing your hands with soap and water several times a day, and regularly disinfecting shared surfaces.

To help prevent the need for taking sick days, the CDC recommends getting an annual flu shot, staying up to date on COVID vaccination, and getting immunized against RSV if eligible. Talk with your doctor about which vaccines are right for you.

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