5 Signs That You Should Take a Sick Day

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Playing When You Should Really Take a Sick Day | Dr. Jen Caudle
When You Should Really Take a Sick Day | Dr. Jen Caudle Aired January 24, 2020

A lot of people are so dedicated to their work that they never even consider taking a sick day — but there are times you really, really should stay home, family physician and associate professor at Rowan University Dr. Jen Caudle says. (For your own good and the good of your co-workers!) 

Dr. Jen walked through five signs that should compel you to call in sick:

1. FEVER

If you have a fever of 100.4 or higher, STAY HOME. 

Plus, "You need to be fever-free, without the use of fever-reducing medications — like ibuprofen, Motrin, things like that — for at least 24 hours before you go back to work," Dr. Jen says.

2.  VOMITING AND DIARRHEA

"The bugs that cause vomiting and diarrhea tend to be really contagious," the doc explains, "so if you've this, just stay home."

3. THE FLU

"Whether you know for sure if you have the flu or you just suspect you have the flu, stay home," the family physician stresses. "And this is going to keep you home for about four or five days at least." 

"If you have the flu, you're not going to be able to [get yourself to work]," she continues. "and you'll know that."

Still not exactly sure if you have a cold or the flu? Here's how to tell the difference between the symptoms

4. IMPAIRED THINKING

"If you're taking medications for your cold symptoms, or whatever symptoms you have, and they make you feel funny in the brain, they don't want you at work," Dr. Jen says. "You need to be home."

5. PINK EYE (or conjunctivitis)

"Pink eye is super contagious. [It] will travel like wildfire," the doctor explains. "[Stay home] until you've been on medication for at least 24 hours." 

Now, aside from knowing when to stay in bed and out of the office, you should also know when it's time to pay a visit to your doctor. 

WHEN SHOULD I GO SEE A DOCTOR IF I'M SICK?

  • Persistent high fever: If your fever doesn't get better with fever-reducing medications or it lasts a few days, see your doctor. "It may not be a cold," Dr. Jen says. "You could have pneumonia." 
  • Persistent nasal congestion and severe facial pain: "If your nasal congestion lasts for seven to 10 days or longer," she adds, "you might actually have a sinus infection." Facial pain could also be a sign of a sinus infection.
  • Ear pain: "Ear infections do happen in adults," Dr. Jen says.
  • Getting worse after getting better: If you have a cold that goes away and then comes back again a week later, it's called "double sickening," the doc says. "If you get that, you very well may have a bacterial infection that needs an antibiotic."
  • Severe abdominal pain: "If you've got abdominal pain that wakes you up in the middle of the night or it hurts so much you don't want to move or don't want anyone to touch it — or maybe you're pregnant, have had surgery or trauma — please come see us," the family physician says. "Let us work it out."
  • Persistent vomiting and/or diarrhea: If you're not able to keep fluids in because they're coming out one way or another, head to the doctor because you could be getting dehydrated. If you are vomiting or having diarrhea for a number of days without improvement, or if you ever see blood in either, see a doctor.

Okay, so how do you know what kind of doctor you should go to? 

"Primary care should be your number-one go-to for things that are not emergencies," Dr. Jen explains. "You go to urgent care for things you would go to your primary care doctor for, but when your primary care doctor is not available."

"We go to the emergency room for things that are limb- or life-threatening," she continues. 

Dr. Jen breaks it down with a few common examples …

UTI: Primary care or urgent care

Chest pain: Emergency room

Burns: Either one — depending on how big or deep it is

Pink eye: Primary care or urgent care

Severe headache: Either one — depending on how severe it is

Twisted ankle: Primary care or urgent care 

Hit your head: Emergency room to make sure you don't have a concussion or another head injury

Rash: Primary care or urgent care

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