When you wake up feeling under the weather, the last thing youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re capable of doing is thinking clearly. But if itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a weekday, the decision you have to makeÃ¢â‚¬”call out or head inÃ¢â‚¬”is as stressful and confusing as the time you had to figure out what to do with your bossÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Facebook friend request.
Turns out, according to the Flu Season Survey from Staples, nearly 80 percent of office workers head to the office when theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re feeling sick, even if they know theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re contagious. And this, experts warn, is a bad moveÃ¢â‚¬”not just for you, but for your coworkers, too.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve all heard about absenteeism, but presenteeism, or heading to work when you know youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not well, is even more of an epidemic,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Louis Papa, MD, Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Not only does pushing yourself through the day stress your body and cause a cold or flu to linger, but it also rapidly spreads germs to people in close proximity.Ã¢â‚¬Â
That said, even experts concede that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unrealistic to call in for every single sniffle. Here, how to suss out whether you should crawl under the covers or click on the coffee pot and suck it up.
STAY HOME IF:
Your nose is like a leaky faucet, or you hack up fluid when you cough. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The more liquid your body is producing, the more of a chance there is for germs to spread,Ã¢â‚¬Â warns Papa. Many people assume that the color of their mucus holds a key to whether or not they are contagious, but Papa warns that isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t true. Ã¢â‚¬Å“While itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s true that yellow or green mucus is a sign your body is actively fighting a bug, since the color is caused by enzymes found in infection fighting white blood cells, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re most contagious in the day or two before full-blown symptoms appear, when the mucus may still be clear.Ã¢â‚¬Â
YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re running to the bathroom every hour. Not only is it miserable to spend your day sprinting across the office to deal with gut issues, but since diarrhea and vomiting both dehydrate you, the mere act of heading to work and trying to keep up with your everyday routine could leave you feeling even sicker than when you started. Stay home until your stomach calms down.
Your eyes are red and crusty. If you wake up and your eye is swollen shut, or it oozes any sort of substance, you may have pinkeyeÃ¢â‚¬”a highly contagious infection that wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t go away without antibiotics. Stay home and make a doctorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s appointment.
Your joints are achy. Ã¢â‚¬Å“When a person gets the flu, white blood cells release proteins called cytokines to fight the infection,Ã¢â‚¬Â explains Papa. Turns out, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s these proteinsÃ¢â‚¬”not the virusÃ¢â‚¬”that are responsible for the all-over body pain you feel during the flu. Rest up so your body can do its work.
You donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have an appetite. Even if you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feel like youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to throw up, appetite lossÃ¢â‚¬”you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t finish your breakfast, going to the DMV sounds more appealing than going to lunchÃ¢â‚¬”is a clear sign your body is battling a bug.Ã‚Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“When your immune system launches a response, it causes hormonal changes that affect appetite,Ã¢â‚¬Â explains Papa. Going through a full workday on an empty stomach under these conditions further stress your body and could hinder your recovery.
HEAD TO WORK IF:
Your coughing and sneezing donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make strangers stare. Take the stranger test: Does your hacking cough make the guy at the coffee counter cringe? If not, then head to work if you have to. Just make sure to wash your hands often and wipe down the surfaces of your desk and your phone with an antibacterial wipe at the end of the day to minimize the chances of germs spreading, suggests Papa.
You had tummy troubles during the night, but are fine at breakfast. Ã¢â‚¬Å“An isolated incident of an upset stomach or bout of diarrhea can be caused by mild food poisoning, stress, or even medication,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Papa. If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re feeling fine in the AM, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all right to head to workÃ¢â‚¬”just make sure to drink plenty of fluids to make up for what you lost.
You donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t interact with a ton of people on the job. Sounds obvious, but the more people you interact with, the easier it is for germs to spread, even if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re being careful where you cough. On the other hand, if you have your own office and use your own supplies, you can use your judgment if your symptoms are mild.
You have an all-over headache. Mild tightness, pain, or pressure throughout your entire head, without any other symptoms, is most likely a tension headache, which can be caused by stress, spending a length of time in an unusual position (like sleeping on a plane) or too much screen time on your laptop. If the headache is severe, accompanied by other symptoms, or concentrated in one place, talk to your doc.Ã‚Â Otherwise, head to work.
photo: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Thinkstock More from WH:
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