Should You Call In Sick or Tough It Out?
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Should You Call In Sick or Tough It Out?

You woke up feeling not quite right, but should you really blow off work for a day on the couch with Katie, Ellen, and Oprah? Here's how to self-diagnose your symptoms.

We asked Sandra Fryhofer, MD, associate professor of medicine, Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, to help us develop simple criteria for deciding when your symptoms are serious enough to warrant a sick day. Here's the guide she offered.

Are You Experiencing These Symptoms?

  1. A fever of 100 degrees F or higher? Yes/No
  2. Sniffles or coughing combined with achiness and fatigue? Yes/No
  3. Chest pain? Yes/No
  4. Shortness of breath? Yes/No
  5. White patches on your throat? Yes/No
  6. Green phlegm when you cough? Yes/No
  7. Sinus pain that doesn't respond to an OTC decongestant? Yes/No

If you answered yes to either 1 or 2: Call in sick. You're probably contagious and not likely to get much work done anyway. Besides, you'll get well sooner with plenty of rest. If your fever is 101 degrees or higher, call your doctor.

If you answered yes to one or more of 3 through 7: Stay home and call the doctor. You may have an infection or other condition that requires antibiotics and/or professional care.

If you answered no to everything: Go to work. Single symptoms that aren't overly disruptive probably aren't contagious. Take an over-the-counter remedy and tough it out. If your condition worsens, you can always head home -- or to the doctor.

Originally published in Fitness magazine, January 2006.