After Illness: When to go back to work or school

A 2011 poll of 3,700 people conducted by CareerBuilder found that 72 percent of workers go to office when ill and more than half feel guilty when they call in sick. 

As a nurse and the director of WakeMed Occupational Health & Safety, this is a practice I highly recommend against.  However, I know that it can sometimes be hard to determine how long you need to stay home in bed when suffering from a cold, gastrointestinal bug, etc.

At WakeMed, we provide all staff with a quick reference guide to make the process of deciding when it is appropriate for the health of those around you to go home from work early or not to come in at all.  This same reference can be applied to children when deciding how long to stay home from school. 

Trust me, your business will be better off with you at home when you are genuinely ill.  If you truly cannot “stay away,” make accommodations to telecommute if possible.

Flu-like symptoms, including fever?

  • Stay home until temperature has returned to less than 99.5˚ for 24 hours without fever lowering medications
  • See your doctor. You have 48 hours from the onset of symptoms to be given medication that treats the flu. Use tissues when sneezing or coughing to reduce the spread of germs to those around you.

Gastrointestinal bug?

  • Stay home until diarrhea-free for 48 hours

Exposed to someone with the flu?

  •  Monitor self for 5-7 days for flu-like symptoms

And remember, whether sick or well wash your hands!  Hand washing is the number one way to prevent the spread of germs.

Carla Stevens is WakeMed’s Director of Occupational Health & Safety.


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