Should You Call in Sick?

Reasons to Stay Home From Work

Young woman sitting on edge of bed, holding head in hand
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You wake up during the night and you don't feel quite right. Maybe your throat feels a little scratchy or your stomach feels unsettled. You fall back to sleep hoping whatever is ailing you goes away by morning so you can avoid calling in sick to work. You have a lot of work to do after all, and the office might just fall apart without you there...or will it?

Most workplaces can survive an employee's brief absence, but if you are a workaholic, you may have a difficult time believing that.

Even if you aren't obsessed with work, you may still worry that you don't have a good enough reason for calling in sick. Perhaps you're afraid you won't finish a major project, or your absence will reflect poorly on you. Even so, a sick employee usually isn't a productive one. What he is, however, is a contagious one who will spread germs to his coworkers who will, in turn, be faced with the dilemma of whether to call in sick tomorrow. The following illnesses and symptoms are some good reasons for calling in sick to work. Use common sense and good judgment when other problems arise.

  • Stomach Woes: You have diarrhea or are vomiting. It could be food poisoning or maybe a stomach virus. The latter is very contagious, so why put your coworkers at risk?
  • Flu: A sudden fever, chills, and aches usually mean you have the flu. This can run through a workplace like a wildfire taking down everyone in its path. You won't feel up to standing, never mind working, so stay home.
  • Sore Throat: This depends on whether your throat hurts a little bit or if you feel like you've been swallowing razor blades. A severe sore throat, especially if you also have a high fever and swollen glands, could mean you have┬ástrep throat, which is quite contagious. Go to the doctor for a throat culture and wait for the results before you go back to work. If you have a positive result, he or she will prescribe an antibiotic and tell you when you can return (usually after 24 hours of starting the medicine).
  • Fever: A fever indicates that your body is trying to fight off an infection. The infection may or may not be contagious so don't take a chance of sharing it with your coworkers. Besides, a fever usually makes you feel pretty miserable, and you won't be productive anyway.
  • Rash: Until you know the cause of a rash, avoid contact with other people. If you know the reason for the problem, the rash isn't contagious, and you're not too uncomfortable, you can probably go to work.
  • Conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye): Conjunctivitis is an eye infection or inflammation. Its symptoms can include eye redness or swelling, and you may feel like you have sand in your eye. It can be extremely contagious, so you should not have contact with other people until you've visited a doctor. If she determines that it is contagious, you will have to use antibiotic eye drops for 24 hours before you can return to work.
  • Significant Pain: Even if you know the cause of your pain isn't anything that will endanger your health, you should consider staying home from work. You will probably have trouble focusing on anything else.
  • Common Cold: Whether or not you should call in sick because you have a cold depends on its severity. If you are rapidly emptying boxes of tissues and have an uncontrollable cough, you've got a pretty bad cold. You will have trouble concentrating and will likely spread germs to others. If your cold is not that severe and you must go to work, wash your hands frequently and keep your phone and computer germ-free by wiping them down with alcohol wipes if others use them. If your coworkers keep their distance, don't be offended. It may not be the garlic dill you had with lunch, but instead their fear of catching what you have.