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How sick is too sick to go to work?

It's in the early stages of the flu

It's in the early stages of the flu that you're most likely to spread contagion in the workplace. Photo Credit: Fotolia

Got a slightly scratchy throat and a little congestion?

Sounds like a common cold, and maybe you can get away with going to work or school and not infecting your colleagues if you’re conscientious about covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and washing your hands.

But if you have even the slightest chill, fever or the beginning of body aches, you really need to stay home, according to physicians and public health experts.

“If you have a fever that’s over 100.5 or you’re aching all over, that is a good sign it’s time to stay home,” said Peter McGough, medical director for the University of Washington health clinics.

“Those are the early, acute symptoms of the flu, and you should definitely stay home because it is highly contagious in those first days,” McGough said. “All those people who are hacking and coughing all around the office are probably in day seven to 10. If they cover their mouth and wash their hands, it may be OK.”

McGough acknowledged that it can be tough to stay home when people have limited, or unpaid, sick days, but said it’s still the right thing to do.

“The other thing people do is go in when they know they are sick with the misguided feeling that they don’t want to let people down,” he said. “What they are doing, though, is putting their co-workers at risk, and if they work in any kind of service industry, they are exposing the people they are supposed to be taking care of.”

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