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Staying Home When You're Sick Is Good for the Herd

Staying Home When You're Sick Is Good for the Herd

You’ve seen the commercials with the message: “Mom’s don’t get a day off.” That company wants you to buy their product and get to work! And it’s the same message in the ad in which a guy in the suit is downing an elixir to hide his symptoms, so he can make a presentation to coworkers. Not smart!

If you’re that sick, you’re probably infectious and you’ll pass the germs along with every breath and on every surface you touch. With the common cold, you’re most contagious the first two to three days. The flu is contagious a day before symptoms appear (eek!) and up to a week after.

Going out into the world when you’re sick costs your employer money (more sick employees, higher health care costs), and harms you and others. And even when you’re feeling a bit better, until symptoms are gone, wash hands frequently, sneeze into the crook of your arm, flush away used tissues, don’t share food or drink.

A new study published in the journal PLoS Biology says when you’re sick you feel like staying in bed for a reason. Seems sickness behavior (crawling under the covers, refusing to talk to anyone) is a highly developed evolutionary trait that exists not only so you heal quickly and completely, but to help your group (that’s family, colleagues, neighbors, etc.) as well. So, don’t force yourself out of bed with symptom-quashing meds or iron will power. Sleep, have some chicken soup, sleep some more. It’s good for everyone.

Medically reviewed in August 2018.

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