When to Take a Sick Day

Doctor's orders: when you are sick with a cold or the flu, don’t save your PTO. Stay home and get well!

Cold and flu season is here is force. Coughing? Sneezing? Suffering from a fever? How do you know when to stay home from work or school?

Terry Hollenbeck, M.D., an urgent care doctor at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Scott’s Valley Center, has seen more than his share of cases colds and influenza. He recently blogged some sound advice to help us know WHEN TO CALL IN SICK.

“Missing work or school can mean falling behind on your workload or studies, but dragging yourself in while ill may not only prolong an illness, but also mean you are probably going to share your germs with your colleagues or peers,” said Dr. Hollenbeck.

He reports that, according to a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, more than two-thirds of all health-related productivity losses are the result of sick employees who show up and perform poorly – not due to those who miss work.

Here’s Dr. Hollenbeck’s recommendation; stay home if you are experiencing the following symptoms:

  • A fever (100 F or higher)
  • Frequent coughing and/or sneezing
  • Vomiting or diarrhea


He says that it’s okay to return to work or school when you no longer have any of these symptoms.

Already sick? Here are several precautions you can take to help keep from spreading illness to others:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or with a hand sanitizer – and don’t touch your face!
  • Always sneeze or cough into a tissue or your sleeve
  • Keep several feet distance from others. Germs are spread through respiratory droplets from your nose and mouth. During normal conversation, droplets may travel one to two feet but a cough or sneeze can propel them between six to eight feet!


When it comes to exercise, Dr. Hollenbeck says to let your body be your guide.

“If you have a cold and feel miserable, take a break. Scaling back or taking a few days off from exercise when you’re sick shouldn’t affect your performance. Resume your normal workout routine gradually as you begin to feel better,” he says.

Read more about preventing and treating colds and influenza on the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s website and health blog. You can also rely on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for detailed information about all health issues.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Scootel McDoogel January 17, 2013 at 06:31 PM
Cathy P. January 17, 2013 at 06:48 PM
Great advice of course and if this were a Perfect World we could all take time off when we're sick. Maybe two-thirds of all health-related productivity losses are the result of sick employees who show up for work because they can't afford the loss in pay (?)
Michael A. Lewis January 27, 2013 at 09:44 PM
We're not victims. We can decide when and where we work, and when we need to not work. We don't give up our lives for small green pieces of paper.


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