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When to Call in Sick to Work

Call in Sick to Work When . . .

When I feel a cold coming on, I want nothing more than to complain about my discomfort and lie on the couch watching romantic comedies. Let's face it though, we can't always call in sick for a little case of the sniffles. We also don't want to downplay our symptoms and go to work when a contagious virus is pulsing through our bodies. So call in sick:

  • When you are noticing beginning combinations of symptoms such as a sore throat, nasal congestion, or a bad headache. Since you are most contagious at the beginning of your illness, your co-workers will appreciate you keeping your germs at home.
  • When you have a full-on cold and you work closely with other people, children, or the elderly. You don't want to risk infecting them.
  • When you have a fever, stay home. Your body temperature rises to help kill off germs, so rest at home to let your body do its job.
  • When you have a productive cough, chest congestion, stuffed up sinuses, green mucus, a scratchy sore throat, achiness, nausea, or are throwing up, definitely call in sick.

When should you go to work? To find out


Go to work:

  • When your only symptom is a slight runny nose.
  • When your only symptom is a dry cough. If it lasts more than a few days, you might want to see your doctor.
  • You're feeling better after being sick, and symptoms are just about gone. Once you go to work, be sure to wash your hands often, and avoid touching things other people regularly come in contact with.

If you're not sure what to do, your best bet is to stay home. Don't worry about not being able to get your work done, because you won't be very productive if you're feeling under the weather. Plus staying home not only shows respect for your co-workers' health, but properly resting when you're sick can also shorten the duration of your illness. If it turns out to be nothing, you can always go into work the next day.


Join The Conversation
Alithyra Alithyra 8 years
For the love of everything green stay home when you're sick. You never know if you have an immuno-suppressed coworker. Now, we get 4 hours of sick time every two weeks, with no maximum number of hours [unlike vacation days, which cap out at 240 hours]. Guy 2-3 years from retirement comes in coughing and spluttering and wheezing. He does this 3 days in a row and then he's fine. He sat over a cube wall from me. I was sick for the next month. Unfortunately we can't remote in. Our contractors can, and do, when they're sick, but we can't.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
I work in a hospital, so I'm always around sick people anyway, but it's especially bad if people come into the lab sick. Actually, most of my coworkers are pretty considerate and will call in sick if they are legitimately ill to prevent infecting the rest of us. Sometimes, if someone feels like crap and wants to see if they have the flu, we run a Rapid Flu test on them to see if they have the flu. If the test comes out positive (it takes a whole 15 minutes to do), we send them home because NO ONE wants the flu! And if someone in your office does come in sick, try to avoid close contact with them and wash your hands a lot. That helps a lot in preventing illnesses from spreading.
margokhal margokhal 8 years
I really wish more people would stay home from work/school/everyone else when they're sick. And definitely wash their hands more often to stop the spread of germs [I used to volunteer in a hospital where some employees and visitors wouldn't wash their hands when there are signs SPECIFICALLY telling them to do so - ick, ick, ICK!]. But the thing is, most employers and schools penalize so hard for missing even A DAY on the job - especially with work, and everyone needing a bit of extra money these days - that for a lot of people, it's not worth the missed time and money that they'll have to make up later to stay home and rest. If they can still do their job, they'll do their job - all the while infecting everyone else around them and decreasing overall productivity. I hope there's a reevaluation and overhaul of how we view missed work and sick days in this country soon. No wonder so many people are getting seriously ill now.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
I woke up feeling achy with a sore throat and I came in. I hope it doesn't get worse...
fleurfairy fleurfairy 8 years
I agree. I think America has gotten out of control with the fear of calling in sick. (Don't even get me started on vacation days) It's definitely looked down upon to take care of yourself. 3-5 days off out of 365 days? Is there a time limit to illnesses? It's very upsetting.
fcseamstress fcseamstress 8 years
It's really too bad we have such a problem with this in our country... It all has to do with no federally mandated sick leave; people are afraid to lose their jobs/pay if they call in. But I've had this happen in the last couple of weeks! A co-worker got sick from her kids (who got it from day care) and then I got REALLY sick. That in turn got my husband sick. It sucks! I'm still getting over it a week and a half later. And with my job, employees have the ability to remote in to work, which makes it even more ridiculous that she came in. On the same tangent, I have a friend who will be losing her job because she was put on no work/rest for the last two weeks of her pregnancy. Well, she only gets 30 days leave before she loses her job, regardless of when the baby was actually born. So she has all of 2 weeks for post-maternity leave. 2 weeks to adjust to not having something moving inside her, the demands of a newborn, all the hormonal changes, a totally new schedule, etc. Oh, and the reason she only got 30 days leave? Because she was sick during her pregnancy and had to take some time off. And she got sick from work (call centers are germ havens). If she would have been perfectly healthy her whole pregnancy she would have gotten 90 days, but those other absences put her on 'attendance watch'. What crap, huh?
VolleyJen14 VolleyJen14 8 years
seriously skigurl, couldn't have said it better myself. my boss is livid if we come in sick and might infect him, but doesn't ever believe you're actually sick when you call in and tries little maneuvers to test you....ugh
skigurl skigurl 8 years
you get in crap when you dont show up, and you get in crap when you bring germs. you can't win.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 8 years
tlsgirl I wish I could do that! Seriously people come into work here sick like 24/7. It's disgusting. I don't know what to do about it other then continue taking my vitamins and glutamien.
katyharper katyharper 8 years
tlsgirl - that is brilliant. The next time that happens at work, I'm definitely calling in healthy!
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
I'm with emileigh, it drives me insane when people come to work or class sick. Especially class - it's not like you can't make up the work or get notes from someone else, and in the meantime you're basically condemning everyone else to suffer with you. I honestly left work one time because a bunch of my coworkers were sick and chose to come in, so I basically called in healthy and left. I shouldn't have to suffer because someone can't take a day off.
emileigh emileigh 8 years
I wish more people would abide by this--there are a TON of illnesses circulating around my campus right now, and people keep showing up to class sick. When I took microbiology, we did cultures from desk surfaces, hand rails, elevator buttons, etc. It's gross. I promise.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 8 years
My work gets SO mad when I miss a day or two for work. If I miss more then two, I MUST have a doctors note and come in for at least 2 hours on the 3rd day. And when I do come back after being sick, honestly they pile the work on me. It's horrible being sick here.
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