Published October 23, 2015
You know the dreaded feeling: A tickle in your throat turns into a persistent cough and temperature swings that have you going from hot to cold in an instant. Given how crazy-fast germs can spread in the office, should you stay home? It all depends on a few different factors, said Dr. Florence Comite, founder of ComiteMD.
“You have to listen to your body to determine whether you should go to work or not,” says Comite.
Here, we break down when it's best to stay home:
You're Coughing and Sneezing Like Crazy
If you just have some congestion or a runny nose, you may be able to head into the office. But if you're having frequent coughing and sneezing attacks and you're producing mucus that isn't clear, it's a sure sign you should stay home.
“You should actually call your doctor because it may be a sign of a worse chest infection,” Comite said.
The issue with going to work or otherwise being around crowds when you’re sick isn’t just that you might infect someone else, but that you might also be exposed to something when your immune system is already compromised.
You Have a Fever
“If you have a temperature of 100 or higher, you should stay home,” Comite said.
Keep in mind that’s a guideline for people whose usual temperature is 98.6.
“Some of us walk around with a basal body temperature of 97 or 97.5, for example. To them, a temperature of 99 is just as significant as 100 to a person who is usually 98.6,” Comite said.
If you’re around three degrees higher than your normal temperature, take it as a sign to call out.
You’re Shaking and Have Chills
You probably know that shaking under a big blanket when the heat is on is a bad sign, but it's worth repeating: Stay home.
“That means a virus has entered your body and is multiplying. The chills come from your body responding to that,” Comite said.
It’s also typically a precursor to a temperature spike.
“At this point, you should be staying in bed and drinking fluids,” Comite said.
You Have Aches and Pains
The pain associated with a viral infection can manifest as pain in your muscles or your bones, said Comite. Besides making your commute and hours at your desk seem seriously unappealing, it’s a signal that the virus has spread throughout your body. Give yourself some time to get over it before you get back out there.
Your Job Makes Germs an Even Bigger Threat
Obviously, no one should risk getting their coworkers or clients sick, but there are some occupations where workers should be especially vigilant in self-monitoring their symptoms. For instance, if you regularly deal with children or seniors on the job or if you work in a restaurant and handle food, it isn't worth risking another person's safety.
“Even if it seems like you’re irreplaceable, try to figure out an alternative,” Comite said.