If you feel like you need to push yourself into the office, you’re not alone. In fact, a study conducted by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) found that 40% of American workers say they come to work sick because they have deadlines or would have too much work to make up when they return to the workplace after a sick day.
“People don’t take off time when they are sick for a variety of reasons,” said Zeigler, “including not having paid sick time off and feeling that their work is too important to miss. People also tend to worry about others having to take up the slack when they call into work.”
Depending on your personal situation, you might not have the luxury of calling in sick. If you are able to take time off, here are the top 5 symptoms that should keep even the most diligent workers home.
1. You Have a Fever
Zeigler said it’s okay to head to work with a low-grade fever if you don’t have any other symptoms. “Some low-grade fevers can be easily treated with over-the-counter medications and it would be fine to work,” explained Zeigler. “Use your judgment on how you're feeling, and try to limit exposure to others by good hand-washing.”
However, if you have a fever with a temperature at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius), Zeigler recommended staying home to avoid exposing others to whatever is making you sick. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends waiting at least 24 hours after the fever is gone to head back to work.
2. You Might be Contagious
No matter how busy you are at work, you need to stay home if you think you might be contagious. This is especially important if you think you might be getting the flu: according to the CDC, individuals with the flu are most contagious during the first 3 days of their illness. Individuals with suspected or confirmed flu, who do not have a fever, should stay home from work at least 4-5 days after the onset of symptoms to reduce the risk of being contagious.
3. You Are in Pain
Pain that is controlled with over-the-counter medication, like a headache or a sore wrist, isn’t typically a reason to take a sick day. However, if the pain is anything more than mild, stay home and contact your doctor. Especially if your job duties could make your pain worse, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
4. You Have Diarrhea or Other Stomach Trouble
It can be difficult to know when stomach trouble is the result of lunch not sitting well and when it’s bad enough to keep you home from work. If nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or other stomach troubles come on quickly, it’s likely you’ve contracted a stomach virus. In general, you’ll need to stay home for at least 24 -hours after your stomach symptoms subside to make sure you aren’t contagious.
5. Your Mental Health Needs Help
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates of the number of adults with a diagnosable mental disorder within the past year to be roughly 43 million Americans - nearly 1 in 5. Thankfully, many companies have made statements in recent years reminding their employees that sick days are available to accommodate their mental health needs.
If you feel your mental health needs tending to, check with HR to make sure your sick time applies to mental health and then devote a day to practicing self-care. “Taking care of mental health should be a priority for all of us,” Zeigler explained. “Reach out to someone if you are struggling with mental health and talk to your manager to see if accommodations can help.”
While these are all important reasons to stay home, you shouldn’t have to wait for your symptoms to be at their worst to take a sick day. Sometimes the best idea is letting yourself take time off when you can tell you’re about to get sick. While this might mean using more than one sick day, it could help lessen the length of time you spend sick.
Finally using one of your sick days? Contact the Banner Health Nurse on Call to discuss potential treatments available to get you back to feeling your best as soon as possible.