Signs You Should Take A Sick Day From Work

Taking a sick day from work has never been easy for Americans. Although not all Americans have paid sick leave, even those who do tend not to take them. For many, there's the fear that taking time off, even if you're sick, may jeopardize your employment.


"No one's allowed to be sick. Sickness is weakness," associate professor of social work at Florida Atlantic University LeaAnne DeRigne tells BBC. "The attitude is 'I'm irreplaceable — if I don't show up, my job won't get done.' Some of it is also concern about how you are going to be viewed as an employee — whether you can be counted on or not. Whether by having too many sick days, too many absences, you are not seen as reliable."

And that was before Covid. When Covid hit, and working remotely became the norm, the idea of taking a sick day when your commute is 20 feet from your bed to your desk has seemed even more out of the question. According to a January 2021 survey by MDLIVE, 51% of people who work from home actually get stressed out and anxious about the idea of having to take a sick day even when they definitely need to take one. But the problem with not taking a sick day is that it can exacerbate an illness that's brewing inside you, making you even sicker, which can lead to more sick days that need to be taken.


While it may be difficult to rationalize taking a sick day when you're actually sick, especially if you work from home, there are symptoms that shouldn't be ignored and should lead you to email your colleagues and let them know you need the day to rest up and get back on track.

You have a sore throat

Although a sore throat doesn't always mean you're coming down with a cold or flu, if you can deduce it's not allergies or related to smoking or anything similar, then it's safe to assume you have something in your system and it's about to wreak havoc on your body. You may think, "Oh, it's just a cold," but a cold that's ignored isn't just going to go away. You need to take time to recharge and rest up. When we get sick, we have physical symptoms, so our body knows that something is wrong. 


"In general, staying home, resting, and avoiding contact with others is the best way to deal with the cold or flu," interim chief medical officer at MDLIVE Vontrelle Roundtree, MD, MPT, tells Popsugar. It may seem "weak" to call out for a cold, but there's nothing weak when it comes to taking care of your health — especially in a country where healthcare is so expensive.

You have a cough that won't quit

Unless you really want to annoy your coworkers with your hacking all day, if you have a cough, that's a sign to take a sick day. Coughing, especially phlegmy coughs, means you have some sort of infection in your chest. It could be anything from a cold or flu to even bronchitis or pneumonia. Although we tend to think that the latter two aren't contagious, according to Mayo Clinic, they actually are because they've been caused by a virus which, in itself, is contagious. If you don't give yourself enough time to adequately recover from these infections, you're just setting yourself up for a jaunt to the hospital. 


According to the CDC, over 1.5 million people in the U.S. alone were diagnosed with pneumonia in 2018, and of those people, 40,000 died. There's no need to become a statistic when you can just take time off to get yourself healthy again. 

You have a fever

If you have a fever over 100 degrees, then take a sick day! A fever is absolutely a good enough reason to take a sick day, and it shouldn't even be a question as to whether or not it justifies a sick day. In fact, the CDC advises all employees stay home from work or take the day off (if they work remotely) until their fever has been gone for a whole 24 hours. A fever is very much an indicator that you have some sort of virus that your body is fighting and that you're more than likely very contagious. 


Even if you take a Covid test and it comes up negative, it doesn't mean you don't have the flu or that, even worse, Covid isn't in your system. We may have vaccines against Covid and the flu, but that doesn't mean that you're 100% immune or that people you come in contact with are either. 

You have trouble concentrating

Sometimes when we get sick, we don't always end up with physical symptoms. Sometimes viruses infect us in other ways that can make working beyond difficult, but we still push through because our culture has taught us that's what we're supposed to do — fight through the pain. This is known as presenteeism — you may be physically at work and feeling like you're doing your job, but you're really not because your head is someplace else due to a sickness. 


Presenteeism is the result of physical, mental, or emotional illnesses that causes decreased productivity at work. If you're sick enough, in any way, shape, or form, that it affects your ability to think clearly, you need to take a sick day. Staring at your computer screen or, even worse, if you do manual work, can not only be a waste of time but dangerous. Go back to bed and rest up.

You have gastro issues

It doesn't matter if you caught a stomach flu or your attempt at carbonara went awry, and now you have food poisoning — any type of gastro issue should have you taking a sick day. Who wants to be running off to the bathroom every 20 minutes to, well, relieve themselves from whatever plagues them? You're not only making it uncomfortable for yourself, but your fellow colleagues aren't likely to be too keen on it either. Ask yourself this: would you want to be around a coworker while they were dealing with a stomach bug of sorts?


Because our culture is so bent on going to work even when we're sick, if you find yourself even questioning whether or not you should take a sick day from work, then that's your instinct telling you that, yes, your body needs to rest for a day or longer. It may not be easy to prioritize our physical health, but if we consider what can happen if we don't, then maybe that's the convincing we need to crawl back into bed with a good book or, for the 100th time, "The Office."