Should you go to work when you have a cold?

Should you go to work when you have a cold?

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How sick is too sick for work when you have a cold? Dr Sara Whitburn, spokesperson for the Royal Australian College of General Practice spokesperson, gives us the lowdown.

It’s hard to pass through winter unscathed by the common cold and it doesn’t help that many of us are reluctant or unable to take time away from work. 

With some symptoms hanging around for weeks, there aren’t many who can afford to spend all of this time at home. 

When can you go back to work after you've had a cold?

Here’s how to gauge how long you should confine yourself and your germs to your home, and when is it safe to return.

Infection with the cold or flu usually brings with it a host of health complaints, says Dr Whitburn, which may include:
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (very tired)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhoea
She says most people are very contagious in the first three to four days of the illness.

“This can range from the one to two days before, and last up to five to seven days after the start of symptoms. It can take up to two weeks for the symptoms to resolve,” she says. 
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How long should you stay home when you have a cold?

“While you have symptoms, you are contagious and so you should stay away from work for at least the first three to four days, and for some people this will be closer to five to seven days if they are taking longer to recover. You also need to rest and recover and so may need up to two weeks before you can return,” she advises.

She says the contagious period is the same for the cold and the flu, as colds are caused by viruses as well.

“Cold symptoms are like flu, but tend to start more gradually and be less severe. You should follow the same recommendations as above when it comes to staying away from work,” says Dr Whitburn.