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5 Signs You’re Too Sick for Work

Updated: Oct 29, 2020

by Dr. Jen Caudle

This is cold and flu season and you’ve probably seen people cough, sneeze and blow their nose. Perhaps this is you. Either way, read below for signs and symptoms that should keep you home from work (employers listen up!)

1) Fever

You shouldn’t go to work if you have a fever. You also shouldn’t return until you have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without using a medication (like Tylenol or Motrin) to bring down the fever. By the way, a fever is defined as a temp of at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius) or higher.

2) Vomiting or Diarrhea

This one’s probably self-explanatory, but maybe not. Diarrhea and vomit (yes, gross… I know) can carry lots of bugs. If you have either one of these just stay home to minimize spreading them. Another reason to stay home is it’s simply tough to work with these symptoms. Do you really want to be at work having to run to the bathroom every 10 minutes?

3) The Flu

If you have the flu, or even if you suspect you have the flu, you should stay home from work for at least 4-5 days after your symptoms begin. This may seem like a lot of time off but trust me on this. If you really have the flu you won’t feel like going back to work any sooner, and the flu is most contagious within the first 3 days of symptom onset so that’s another important reason to stay home.

4) Your thinking and/or concentration is impaired

Maybe you feel fuzzy in the head because of your illness, or maybe you feel this way because of medications you are taking to treat the illness. Either way, if you aren’t thinking right, you really shouldn’t go to work. Furthermore, if your thinking is impaired too much, or becomes worrisome, you should see a doctor. (Quite honestly, any of the symptoms in this article should prompt you to see a doctor. Just saying.)

5) Pink Eye

Going to work (or school) with pink eye is definitely a no-no because it is so highly contagious. Pinkeye that's caused by bacteria (there are different types of pink eye so see your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment) can be spread as long as there's discharge from the eye or until 24 hours after antibiotics are started. For this reason I recommend my patients stay home for work for the first 24 hours of treatment.

Remember, going to work while sick is not a wise thing- nor is it honorable (even though it might seem like it at the time). When we go to work sick we expose others to our illness, potentially spreading it to them, and we don’t get the proper rest that we need to get better. So, when you’re sick, just stay home. It’s best for everyone!

Stay healthy! Dr. Jen

Dr. Jen Caudle is a Family Physician, Associate Professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. She frequently appears on TODAY, NBC Nightly News, Dr. Oz Show, Fox News, HLN, the Rachael Ray Show and many others. Sign up to receive her free health newsletter and follow her on social at and subscribe to her YouTube channel at

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