Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates: What You Need to Know. LEARN MORE


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How to Decide if You or Your Child Should Take a Sick Day

To take a sick day or to soldier on? It can be a tough decision, whether we’re making it for ourselves or for a child. The answer should weigh several considerations: what symptoms are present, what the conditions are like at the office or school and who else will be there.

Of course, these considerations take on even greater importance during the COVID-19 pandemic, when a risky choice could spark an outbreak with severe consequences to the health of others. Here are some factors to consider when determining whether a day should be a sick day:

Table of Contents

  • Why sick days are important
  • Sick days during COVID-19
  • Evaluating the symptoms
  • Other considerations to weigh for a sick day
  • Sick days while working from home

Why sick days are important

First, a sick day is important to your health. If you’re feeling unwell, it’s a sign that you may need to slow down to give your body the opportunity to heal. Sometimes, taking a sick day can make the illness pass more quickly than if you didn’t take time to allow your body to rest. Deciding to “power through” an illness doesn’t usually work and just prolongs the illness or makes it worse.

Also, a sick day is important for everyone else. Taking a day to heal at home can protect the health of those around us by not spreading our germs. Even if you feel you can power through an illness, those germs may sicken others – and sometimes, what is a minor illness for us can become a severe illness in others.

Sick days during COVID-19

Understanding the rules for sick days is even more important amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Be sure to understand the policies at your workplace or school to determine when you or your child should stay home, based on factors including vaccination and possible exposures.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you do need to stay home. Your workplace or school will offer guidance when you’re eligible to return. If you or your child experience symptoms of COVID-19 – including cough, fever, fatigue or shortness of breath – check local policies to learn when it’s safe to return and what the rules are for masking. In addition, if you or your child has had a close exposure to someone with COVID-19, check those policies as well to learn how long to quarantine.

Evaluating the symptoms

If you feel miserable, it’s time to consider staying home – and whether you’d be productive at work anyway. But if your symptoms show a likelihood of being contagious, then staying home is as much for others as for yourself.

Flu symptoms

If you have the flu, for example, you are definitely contagious. Flu symptoms include chill, body aches, fatigue, runny nose and cough. The flu can be dangerous to others with weakened immune systems, so going to work or being in public with the flu puts others at risk.


If you have a fever, you are most likely contagious. You shouldn’t go to work if your temperature is more than 100 degrees, and you should remain at home for at least one day after the fever has passed. Please do not go to work if you have either.

Other symptoms to consider include:

  • Cough: A cough can pass germs to others, especially if it’s a moist cough.
  • Sore throat: Contagious conditions that cause a sore throat include strep throat, flu and colds. There are non-contagious reasons, too, including allergies and dry air. If you or your child has a contagious illness with a sore throat, consider giving the throat some rest at home.
  • Green or yellow discharge from nose: In the first week, this is usually due to a virus and is usually contagious.
  • Vomiting/diarrhea: These could result from anything from norovirus (contagious) to food poisoning (not contagious), but either way, try to stay home and hydrate until symptoms have subsided.
  • Runny nose: The reason for the runny nose will tell you whether it’s time for a sick day. If it’s due to a cold, it’s contagious and you or your child should stay home; if it’s due to allergies, it’s not contagious and it’s safe to go in.
  • Rash: If your doctor has determined your rash is contagious – or if you have a fever at the same time – please stay home.
  • Fatigue: If you feel suddenly fatigued, it may be an early sign of a contagious disease (such as flu) or it may be due to exhaustion. Either way, consider staying home to allow your body time to heal.

Other considerations to weigh for a sick day:

  • Where you work: Do you work in a public place, such as a grocery store or restaurant? Consider the number of people you encounter who may be at risk of illness if you go to work while sick.
  • Whom you work with: Do you work closely with vulnerable populations, including the elderly or young children? Remember that an illness that seems minor to you may become dangerous to them. In addition, consider people who may have compromised immune systems, such as many patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
  • What you do: If the safety of yourself and others relies on being alert – such as driving a bus or operating heavy machinery – please stay home if you feel unwell.

Sick days while working from home

Taking a sick day isn’t just for staying home from an office or workplace. Even if you work from home, taking a sick day when you’re unwell gives your body a chance to heal. It’s not just about exposing others to an illness but prioritizing our own health.

How to spend your sick day

You’ll want to devote your day to healing. If possible, try to put work aside, even if you have the ability to work from home. Sometimes the most productive thing we can do is rest.

Remember to eat foods that help you heal. Hot broth and tea can work wonders. Also, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Seeing a health care provider

If you aren’t sure what’s causing you to be sick – or if you need advice on how to heal – consider a doctor’s appointment. Make an appointment with your primary care provider or, if you need one, call Wellness Connect, 864.512.3748. You can also visit to learn more.

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