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Should you stay home if you have the flu?

feb_article2Are you hesitant to call in sick, even when you are seriously ill? Do you worry that you should go in to work even if your body is telling you to stay in bed?

Many of us may feel that we have to go to work, even on days we really shouldn’t. But experts say you should stay home if you can when you are sick — especially when you have the flu — or else you may end up being Patient zero – the first person to get sick and start spreading it through the office. All it takes is one infected person to go to work and before you know it, the whole office can end up sick with the flu.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with the flu can spread it to from about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets then can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Also, a person might get infected by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose; this is a less common form of transmission.

Do you have the flu?

You may have the flu if you have some or all of these symptoms:

  • fever
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • body aches
  • headache
  • chills
  •  fatigue
  • sometimes diarrhea and vomiting

Should you go to work?

Experts say that whether you have the flu or some other illness, you should consider the following questions when deciding if you should go to work or stay home:

  •  How well can you carry out your work duties? If you’re feeling quite sick, you’re going to have a hard time functioning and performing at your normal level.
  • Are you contagious? If you have a viral or bacterial illness, you’ll expose your coworkers and they, in turn, will infect others. Staying home when you’re sick helps to curb germs in the community.
  • Will resting at home help your body to overcome the illness? Doctors say they often see a lot of symptoms worsening because people will not just stop and rest. What you need to understand, experts say, is that they’re pushing themselves to the point where they’re actually a lot sicker at the end of two to four days than they would have been if they had just taken that first day off and let their body fight the infection.
  • Are you taking medications that could impair your ability to think, work, operate machinery, or drive? If you’re so sick that you’re using opiates or any controlled substance to manage pain, you really need to stay home and you shouldn’t be driving. Your performance will be impaired and you will be a danger to yourself and others.

If you have the flu, you may be able to infect others before symptoms even begin to develop and up to 5 to 7 days after you become sick. It also is possible to not have any symptoms and carry the flu virus, but still be able to pass it on to others.

Staying healthy

Beyond getting a flu shot, experts say the best way to keep from getting sick are to:

  • Frequently wash your hands
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid crowds whenever possible during flu season
  • Know the symptoms of the flu so you can get treatment quickly

The worst of the flu season appears to be over, according to health officials, but it is still important to be aware of the symptoms and to get to your doctor if needed. And if you have the flu, please stay home, for your own and others’ well-being.  Treat others as you would like to be treated. Think about if you would like it if someone came to work and coughed on you all day, possibly spreading germs to you.