Are Your Cold or Flu Symptoms Bad Enough to Stay Home?
The first thing you should know is that the best way to prevent the spread of cold and flu is with frequent and proper hand washing. Be vigilant! Make sure to rub your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds to help to slough germs off the skin.
In addition to hand washing, you can also get a flu shot to prevent influenza—which is especially important this year with the threat of swine flu. Flu activity in the United States generally peaks between late December and early March, so the CDC recommends getting a flu shot in October or November. Within two weeks of getting a flu shot, antibodies develop in your body and provide protection against flu symptoms.
During the peak of cold and flu season, it can be hard to differentiate between symptoms that necessitate sick days and doctor visits and milder symptoms that aren't contagious.
Spot the severity of five common cold and flu symptoms.
If you are sniffling but not achy or feverish and feel fine otherwise, you probably have allergies. With allergies, you can go to work. You might want to see an allergist to find out what's triggering your allergies.
How bad is your sore throat?
If you've had a cold for a few days and are now coughing up darker yellow mucus, it's still probably just a cold. If you continue to cough up dark mucus after a week, it's a good idea to see your doctor. If the cough feels deep and makes you feel short of breath, it's probably more than a common cold. These may be signs of something more serious such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Call your doctor immediately and stay home from work.
If you have pain around the eyes, top of the forehead, the cheekbones and even the top of your teeth, it may be a symptom of a sinus infection. Go ahead and call in sick. Then call your doctor. You may need an antibiotic or other treatment to relieve your sinus pain and symptoms.
What's causing those aches and chills?
If you have a fever plus white patches on your tonsils, you may have strep throat, which is highly contagious and may require antibiotics. Call your doctor immediately.
If you wake up with a headache, it may be a cold, especially if you have other symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion and body aches. In that case, you may need to stay home a day or two while you're most contagious and feel the worst.
But if you have a headache and can't tolerate noise or light, you may have a migraine and shouldn't be at work. If you have recurring headaches and haven't seen a doctor, make an appointment. A doctor can assess the cause of your headache. There's no point in suffering; there are drugs you can take for migraines and other chronic headaches that start working within the hour and shorten the migraine's duration.
Is that an ear infection?
You may need an antibiotic or pain-relieving medication for the earache. Ear infections are not contagious. However, if you have cold symptoms along with an earache, you are likely contagious for the first two to three days.
Be on the lookout for pinkeye.
Pinkeye is highly contagious, so don't go to work. Call your doctor to determine whether you need an antibiotic for your infected eyes. Pinkeye can be viral or bacterial—antibiotics can help if it's bacterial. Make sure to wash your hands frequently to avoid infecting anyone else.
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