Are You Too Sick To Work?

Health Minute

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It’s important to take care of yourself when you’re feeling under the weather, but how do you know that you’re too sick to go to work?  Year round, and especially during cold and flu season, health care professionals urge the public to be aware of the symptoms of contagious conditions, and do what they can to prevent their spread.

Some illnesses, particularly the flu, spread through human contact, according to the Centers for Disease ControlOff Site Icon (CDC).

Strep throat is also a contagious illness that can spread from person-to-person, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP). Like the flu, strep throat can be spread when the infected person coughs or sneezes, according to the CDC.

When contagious illnesses like flu or strep throat set in, health officials believe that it’s best for the patient to stay home for a faster recovery, and also to prevent the condition from spreading, according to the CDC.

Patients should stay home, and/or seek medical care, when symptoms develop, according to the CDC. Just as important, patients should be aware of the symptoms of contagious illnesses, and how to tell them apart from less-serious conditions.

Is it the Flu?

The flu can sometimes mimic the symptoms of the common cold, so it’s helpful to know the difference between the two, according to the National Foundation for Infectious DiseasesOff Site Icon (NFID).

While each flu virus is unique, there are some symptoms that are telltale signs of the contagion, according to the NFID. Flu symptoms appear with relative speed, usually within three to six hours. The flu causes a fever of 100 degrees or more, body aches that are sometimes severe, chills, headache, and fatigue, according to the NFID.

Some of the same symptoms appear when one has a cold, but they are milder than those of the flu, according to the NFID. Cold symptoms take more than a few hours to develop; the condition tends to come on gradually. Fever and headache are rare when one has a cold, it’s uncommon for the patient to experience chills, and aches and fatigue are usually minimal, according to the NFID. More common symptoms of the cold are stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat, or cough, according to the NFID.

When symptoms of the flu set in, it’s best to stay home, leaving only to seek medical attention, according to the NFID. Flu can spread quickly in the workplace, so it’s important to stay home to avoid infecting co-workers. However, if you aren’t sick and believe that a co-worker is showing symptoms of the flu, you should seek medical attention yourself, according to the NFID. Your doctor may be able to prescribe antiviral medications that will help fight the illness faster should you have contracted it.

For patients who do get sick, it’s important to know when it’s safe to return to work. If you have a fever with the flu, you should stay home for 24 hours after your fever is gone without the help of medicine, according to the CDC.

The best preventive measure of fighting the flu is to receive an annual flu shot, according to the NFID.

Is it Strep Throat?  

Strep throat is an infection caused by streptococcus bacteria, and is more common in children than in adults, according to the AAFP. However, adults can still get strep throat and spread it to others.

The streptococcus bacteria can live in one’s nose and throat and is spread when the infected person coughs or sneezes, according to the CDC. The droplets from a sneeze or cough can settle on common areas, and the bacteria spreads when someone touches one of those areas and then touches their nose, mouth, or eyes. One can contract strep throat by eating or drinking after an infected person, or the bacteria can spread through sores from strep skin infections, according to the CDC.

According to the AAFP, symptoms of strep throat include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Red and swollen tonsils
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen, sore neck glands
  • White patches in the throat or on the tonsils

Children may also experience the following symptoms in addition to those listed above:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Red rash with small spots that is worse under the arms and in skin creases
  • Vomiting

Like the flu, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of strep throat, and stay home from work when the signs are present, according to the CDC.

Your doctor may conduct a medical screen to confirm the presence of strep throat, and may prescribe antibiotics to treat it. Many patients improve after a day or two of treatment, and should stay home from work until they have taken antibiotics for at least 24 hours, according to the CDC.

Find more information about staying home with strep throat or flu, or find a physician.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.