How Sick Have You Gone to Work?

Imagine you wake up late, sore, hot, and with a scratchy throat. It’s all you can do to drag yourself out of bed, brush your teeth, and make it to work on time. But should you?

As cold and flu season begins, the topic of whether or not to stay home from work doesn’t always get as much discussion as it should. Every person responds differently to illnesses, but it’s often a first impulse to push through the fatigue and discomfort illness can bring. That’s why many sick workers avoid taking a day off or using sick or PTO days for recovery.

But, physicians say that staying home when you’re really sick not only leads to a speedier recovery in most cases, it also helps keep illness from spreading. So, for the sake of yourself – and others! – check out these guidelines to find out if you’re too sick to go to work.

Curious if you’ve gone to work too sick for your own good? Check your answer here. Have a story about yourself or someone else working sick? Share your tales in the comments below.


  1. Michelle Raines

    I once went to work with strep after being on antibiotics for 24 hours. I was still running a temp but had already missed a day and could not afford to miss more. It was horrible, especially since I had a customer service job at the time and had to talk on the phone all day. YUCK! I now work for a small family owned business and my new boss told me the day after I started:
    “It’s very simple, if you get sick at home, do not come in here. If you’re here and get sick, GO HOME!”

  2. Tiffany | Express Job Blogger

    @ Steve – Most experts say high temperatures alone typically are a good enough sign that you’re too sick to be at work. They often mean you are contagious, and otherwise, no one with a high fever will be at their best.
    @ Michelle – Unfortunately, so many workers we gear from have experienced that. But it’s great to hear your situation now! It’s a simple enough thing, isn’t it?
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. James

    If your coughing and sneezing and you work in a office enviroment, go HOME!!! Don’t get everyone else in your office sick. Use your sick days!! There not called Sick Days so you can use them for vacation… Please don’t give me the ole “I’ve been here for X amount years and never called in sick” crap.. thanks to that and the sick days for vacation mentality your probobly got everyone around you sick. AArrrgghh!! Don’t get me started

  4. Carol

    I went to work one day, after being at the hospital one night and passed a kidney stone, this can be as painful, as being in labour, required meds for pain, but as a single person I spent the night in the hospital, slept and then phoned my supervisor alerting her to the facts and letting her know I might be an hour late.

  5. Carol V.

    I had a bi-lateral mastectomy and returned to work in a week. I try my darndest to not catch colds and medicate as soon as I start to get stuffy. Unfortunately, dedication is not very often appreciated. I need my paycheck so I go in sick. I have no PTO.

  6. Bill Gilbert

    I have gone into work with such a fever, that up on seeing my DR. he asked me how I could evan stand it.
    One co. I worked for temp. had a very strict attendance policy, bujt they did say they did not bwant peaple to come in with a contagious dessease, they did not want every one in the plant to catch it. they did allow the temp peaple to use theire nurse, and usualy to get free medicine. of course my temp work with that co. was in the days they hired theire own temps. so, we did get some perks, of course insurance was for the full time perm peaple.
    I will say I never missed a day of work there.

  7. Pat Paasch

    I worked for a government agency for 30 years. Although most people assume that means workers can stay home whenever they want to that was certainly not the case at my office. Because of the high volume of work and the shortage of staff it was actually in my job description for several years that “due to workload issues workers needed to limit their absences from work” so staying home sick was not really considered an option. If I was really ill they would put me in an office by myself so I could work without exposing others to my illness. I often worked when I was so ill I could hardly get to the bathroom. I returned after surgery several weeks before being released for work which extended my healing period dramatically.
    When I became a supervisor I was very strict about sick people staying home or going home when they got ill no matter what the work load issues were. It is important to be a loyal and dedicated worker but a job is not worth rising your health or life for.

  8. Cathy Vining

    After letting my boss aware of my high fever, I went to work just for about 2 hours, closed the door to my office, and did the payroll so that my boss did not have to do it; then I went home. Other times, I went to work with a low grade fever or cold/flu symptoms because I needed my limited sick time for when my two daughters were sick. There’s not enough time off to take care of sick children, so instead, I have to go to work when I am sick.

  9. Dorothy

    I was a recent graduate and settling in to my first ‘real job’ when I got really sick for really no apparent reason. As someone who never really got sick, I just tried to take one day at a time and figured it would get better and just go away – boy was I wrong. I had been feeling absolutely miserable for a couple of days – hard time sleeping or even breathing properly at time, hot flashes followed by cold sweats, coughing like crazy and feeling like I had been on the loosing end of an ultimate fighting match. Despite all of this, and against by better judgement I allowed my boss to guilt trip me enough to go to work. By about midday I was about to fall over, and was persisting to go home. Once again my supervisor brought out the ‘we all get sick, and that is when you find out who the ones with the real commitment are”. A sucker for guilt once again, and trying to impress my new boss, I stuck it out until the end of shift. Before even going home, I went straight to the walk-in clinic in hopes that they would just put me out of my misery by then. It only took them about 30 seconds to figure out that I was moving up the priority list at triage. Turns out that I had perforated my left lung (to this day they still don’t know how) and I had serious infection. I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance for more tests and kept for almost three days on intravenous antibiotics, followed by another round of medication to take home. The doctors were surprised I was even able to get to the clinic on my own power, never mind work a full day and on top of that drive myself to the clinic. Funny part, in a sad way, is that my doctor called by boss to “inform” her of how serious my condition really was and that she could have killed me – only after I received the extended version of that same lecture.
    While I will still go to work with a cold or something mild every time, I can honestly say I’m not the push over I used to be. It doesn’t surprise me anymore when I see people at work that clearly should be at home, especially considering I was one of the worst.

  10. Amber

    I carry colds in my muscles. Once I had a really and I mean really bad cold. It might have even been strep throat, but I cannot remember. Anyway. I was at work on fire (temp was like 103 or something very high) and my throat was swollen and on fire too. Well, as the cold moved through my body throughout the day I had cold chills and then hot flashes and my eyes were glossed over. I kept running to the bathroom to get sick.
    When the cold hit my legs, my calf began to swell and before too long, it was so large, my supervisor took me to the doctor and they had to cut my pants off of me in order to see what was going on. They thought I had a blood clot and was afraid it was going to break off and go to my heart or brain and so they did all this stuff to me and pumped me full of meds. They actually made me stay over night. I did recover, but I have had similar instances where my hands or feet or face will swell whenever I catch a cold. My doctor said that is just the way my body handles a cold. The fluid settles in my muscle tissue and makes it swell.

  11. Jeanne

    I have been working about 40 years and I lost count of how many times I would catch what others brought into the office because they didn’t want to use their precious leave time that they had an abundance of. What most people don’t seem to understand is that alot of people are not as resilient as others, in fact what can be a slight fever, chills for one and another gets their “bug” can be very severe for another person-even cause death. If someone is prone to respiratory infections,catching colds can easily go into pneumonia. Also, if someone just is getting over a serious surgery or illness and their body hasn’t built back up and they catch the flu or something else there can be serious complications resulting. Basically, it is not just about you when you get sick- it is about all the other people you expose to your illness and the pain and suffering you can cause them. Be kind to others and stay home.

  12. Janna

    Not everyone has the luxury of sick leave. I’ve had to work a full shift while running a high fever and running to the bathroom to throw up every hour or so because I could not afford to loose a day of pay. (I had children to feed) In addition, my employer would use any means, including threatening your continued employment if you tried to call in sick. For those of you that have sick leave and compassionate employers that allow you to call in sick, stay home when you are sick. Your co-workers will thank you.

  13. Alice

    I was working a switchboard job at a large hotel and went to work after completely losing my voice over the weekend. If I yelled, it came out as a whisper. I could have gone home sick, but my boss really needed me. Somehow, by the end of my shift my voice was back about halfway.

  14. Kidane Zewde

    Oh, I definitely have called-in. Don’t really have any big stories to tell though. I just usually avoid saying I’m sick, makes me feel a little better about what I did. Unfortunately, I’m often little bit paranoid that they see right through me anyway and I end up feeling a little tinge of guilt, nonetheless. (Funny, I often feel guilty when I’m really sick because I’m worried that they think I’m lying then, too). So, when I do call-in I don’t end up enjoying or relaxing as much as I thought that I would. Still, I think taking personal days and letting the brain relax is very important and I’m glad I do it from time to time anyway.

  15. larry

    I went to work and was acting as supervisor and showed up 1 hr early so as to do job assignments and to inform my suppervisor that I would possibly need 1 or more hours off to see my dentist. I had been off the past weekend and already seen him and he gave me medication for an infection, I was told to not do certain things because of the possibilty of reaction which including dizziness and drowsiness. I sat in a safety meeting for 3 hrs. with all my supervision as well as crew members and went to take my meds as prescribed and when I came from the locker room I was told that I was going for a drug test. Even though suppervision knew before the shift started what I was taking it showed possitive and after 11.5 years with a clean work record the no good sob in charge of human resources fired me and would not even let me get my vehicle until I had a driver come and remove it which was 8 hrs later. This took place in Gallia County OH. from 5:30 in the morning until 7:oo that evening. This has ruined my life.

  16. sarah

    i’ve gone in sick WHILE having a gallbladder attack as my boss said if i ever called in i’d be fired. she stated, “you’re job is more important than your well being.”…

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