Infectious diseases are called infectious because they spread quickly and often easily. In an enclosed environment, when people are nearby as you cough and sneeze, or touch objects you just did, a virus can make everyone sick. Spreading a cold or flu virus reduces productivity in the office and increases the cost to the business. This may have long-lasting effects on your company’s bottom line if everyone brings illness into work.
Some days it’s just obvious you have no business going to work – and likely can’t even drag your body out of bed. But there are other days when your head isn’t spinning, and you don’t have a fever. You might be tempted to push yourself, especially if you don’t have paid sick time or there’s an important deadline looming. What are the signs you should stay at home?
This is a temporary increase in your body temperature that is often accompanied by body aches. In response to a viral or bacterial infection your body temperature rises. Most fevers disappear after one to three days and you are no longer contagious one to two days after you are fever-free without taking any medication. While you may be tempted to take medication to lower a fever, this only slows your recovery. Unless the fever rises over 102 F or you are unable to rest (important when you’re sick), it’s best to let your body use the temperature to fight the infection. However, even a low-grade fever in a child may indicate a serious infection, so it’s important to consult with your pediatrician.
Cough or shortness of breath
Many get a cough with a cold. You are most contagious in the first two to three days of a cold and are less likely to pass it along after a week. If you’re coughing and feel miserable, stay home. Shortness of breath is a sign of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and pneumonia. In either case, you should stay home and seek medical care as these may be dangerous symptoms.
A sinus infection can trigger dizziness as your inflamed sinuses affect your balance. While antibiotics will not help a viral infection and may make the situation worse, some sinus infections are triggered by bacteria and may need antibiotics to resolve. Dizziness may also be a symptom of a lack of oxygen from pneumonia. In either case, it’s important to stay home and see your medical provider.
Not just a stress headache – but a killer headache with body aches, sniffling and sneezing, which can mean the flu. You’ll be highly contagious from the day before your symptoms until 24 to 48 hours after the fever resolves. It can take weeks for the cough and fatigue associated with the flu to resolve, during which you are susceptible to another viral infection. It is important to stay at home while you are contagious. After you return to work practice good hand washing and stay away from anyone who is sick to reduce the potential you get sick again.
Sniffly, scratchy throat without a fever
These are symptoms of a cold or seasonal allergy. You know your health best. Seasonal allergies are not contagious, but a cold is a viral illness that can easily spread at work. Stay home if you have a cold.
This is a symptom that often accompanies flu or fever and makes it difficult to consider going to work, or even moving. However, if it continues past symptoms of being ill, or appears without other symptoms of a cold or flu, stay home and seek medical attention.
Vomiting and diarrhea
While you may not consider going to work while vomiting, you might think diarrhea isn’t an issue. However, the viruses that cause diarrhea are highly contagious and may spread quickly at work. Stay home, and once you haven’t had diarrhea for 24 hours it’s fine to return to work. It’s important to remember though – depending on the virus that caused diarrhea you can be contagious for up to two weeks after symptoms have resolved. Always practice good hand washing!
When to See Your Doctor
While the challenges of dealing with COVID-19 have placed a focus on quarantining yourself – or “sheltering in place” – realistically, this is something that should be done anytime you have symptoms of a viral illness. It’s important to call your physician if you believe you have symptoms of COVID-19 for advice as hospitals and physicians are taking special precautions to see and treat patients. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have provided resources to help you through this pandemic.
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