Should I call in sick?

It started Saturday afternoon. You felt the inkling of something in the back of your throat. Then it started to hurt. You ignored it, thought it would go away. You're now trying to get ready for work on Monday morning. Your entire body is aching, you have a fever, a cough, and despite having had a good night's rest, you feel tired. You think you may have the flu (influenza).

But you have that report due at noon today. And your boss just assigned you to be the team lead on a very important (promotion-worthy if successful) project. Should you call in sick? Short answer: YES. Here's what you should do:

  • Call in sick. Don't be a hero. There's no need to show anybody that you can "tough it out." Showing up for work when you're sick (the opposite of absenteeism, an offence called presenteeism) doesn't do you or anyone else around you any good. You will likely be unproductive and possibly spread your flu – a highly contagious infection – to your co-workers. So, take a sick day. If your boss insists you come in, tell them to consider this: people who show up at work ill may actually encourage future absenteeism and cost the company money in lost productivity.  
  • Talk to your doctor. If you don't begin to feel better after a few days, your symptoms get worse, or you belong to a high-risk group for complications of the flu, you should contact your doctor. You should get a flu shot every year. A flu shot is your best defence against getting the flu.  
  • Drink lots of fluids. Water, juice, and soup are good choices.  
  • Soothe your pain. Use pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen to relieve your body aches, fever, and headache.  
  • Prevent the spread. Just like you don't want to infect your co-workers, you also don't want to spread the flu to others – people who live with you, neighbours, and friends. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing the song "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" slowly). Cover your mouth with your arm when you cough or sneeze. If you cough or sneeze into your hand or you use a tissue, wash your hands immediately after disposing of the tissue. Don't want to get out of bed to clean your hands? Alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol are also effective. Remember to use enough to wet both hands completely; rub the liquid into all surfaces of your hands until it is completely dry.  
  • Rest at home. Stay home to rest and recover. And rest means just that – don't try to do work from home or try to accomplish a household chore because you're off for the day. Your body needs to recover. Adults can spread the flu starting 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after getting sick.

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