OH-Blog Logo
Person sneezing into facial tissue while seated at work desk

Am I Too Sick to Work?

Chalk it up to our culture of high productivity, but missing work is one our first concerns when we get sick.

You may worry about meeting responsibilities and guarding the health of your team, when your primary focus should be on caring for yourself.

It’s important to remember that staying home when you’re sick doesn’t make you a burden on your company or co-workers. You’re actually doing your co-workers and customers a favor by taking care of yourself and not infecting them.

As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to roll out to eligible age groups, one of the most important ways you can put the brakes on transmission is to avoid others when symptoms appear. Staying at home when you’re sick is one of the everyday preventive actions prescribed by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We wanted to better understand which symptoms mean you’re too sick to work, so we spoke with OhioHealth family medicine physician and medical director of Provider and Associate Well-Being Laurie Hommema, MD, who shared these tips for caring for yourself and preventing the spread of illness.

1. If you have any of the symptoms of coronavirus, especially fever, cough, or shortness of breath, stay home.

“Any temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit is a true fever and you should be evaluated,” says Hommema. “It’s time to rest. Stay home, call your primary care physician and drink fluids.”

2. Vomiting and diarrhea are a no-go.

“If you are vomiting or have diarrhea, never go to work,” says Hommema. “Drink plenty of fluids, stick to bland foods that don’t stress your digestive system and get plenty of rest.”

3. Depending on the disease, give treatments time to work.

“Illnesses such as strep throat are highly contagious. Your doctor will recommend you take at least 24 hours away from work to give your antibiotics time to take effect,” says Hommema. “Plus, some diseases like chicken pox, measles, whooping cough and the mumps are on the rise because of lower vaccination rates. If you have any of these, there are fairly strict guidelines for when you can return to work. It’s best to talk it through with your doctor and your employer.”

4. Wear a mask and wash your hands.

“Viral illnesses are spread through droplets produced by coughing and sneezing. If all you have is a cold, and not influenza or COVID-19, and feel ok to work, but are coughing and sneezing, please wear a mask at work,” says Hommema. “And always remember to frequently wash your hands. Good hand hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of infection.”

5. Clean your workspace.

“Some viruses and harmful bacteria can survive for long periods on hard surfaces. Be sure to disinfect handles, keyboards and shared devices like phones,” says Hommema. “You don’t want to reinfect yourself with strep throat because you didn’t wash your coffee cup well enough!”

6. Don’t do more than you should before you’re ready.

“Keep your safety in mind, and the safety of the people you work with. Your doctor might prescribe medications to manage your symptoms, and some medications can affect your ability to do your job, operate machinery or make decisions,” says Hommema. “Discuss it with your physician, and let your supervisors and co-workers know if you need a shift in responsibilities while you recover.”


Infographic with tips for caring for yourself and preventing the spread of illness


related articles