How To Tell When You're Too Sick To Go To Work Or School | KCUR

How To Tell When You're Too Sick To Go To Work Or School

Dec 9, 2013

In addition to covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze the best thing you can do to limit risk of infection is to keep your hands away from you eyes, nose and mouth.
Credit FairFaxCounty / Flickr -- Creative Commons

Perhaps you feel a little warm, more tired than usual, congested and maybe even achy. At this point you might ask yourself is it worth it to go to work?

Or perhaps your child looks pale and complains of an upset stomach, do you let her or him stay home from school? If you decide to tough it out perhaps you wonder if you're putting others at risk by going to work or sending your child to school.

These simple question costs U.S. employers over half a trillion dollars annually, according to Integrated Benefits Institute.

With many infectious diseases you are most contagious before you feel ill. Therefore, the time to stay home is actually just as you're experiencing your vary first symptoms, says Dr. Catherine Satterwhite, senior epidemiologist with the Kansas City Health Department.

Satterwhite adds that your decision to stay home really has to be based on how you are feeling, if you feel to ill to work you should stay home and recover. The same guidelines should be followed if you are trying to avoid getting others sick; if you feel the very beginnings of illness, that is when you are typically most contagious.

Some of the best ways to avoid spreading disease and keeping yourself from getting infected are:

  1. Get a flu shot
  2. Don't put your fingers in or near your eyes, nose or mouth. The mucous membranes located in these organs are how many viruses and bacteria enter the body.
  3. Wash your hands regularly. You don't have to use hand sanitizer or anti-bacterial soap, just straight soap does the job just as effectively
  4. If you're going to cough or sneeze, do so into your elbow to help limit spreading disease on your hands


  • Dr. Catherine Satterwhite, Senior Epidemiologist with the Kansas City Health Department and Assistant Professor in the Preventive Medicine and Public Health Department at KU Medical Center
  • Joy Roberts, Family Nurse Practitioner and assistant dean at the School of nursing at UMKC