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Common cold: Too unwell to work?

If you have a cold, are you too ill to work? While you can try to run away from a common cold, you can't hide! And you must use common sense before you expose others at work to your cold virus. Findings show that when we're afflicted with the common cold, we're not very productive.

So, what should you do when you wake up sneezing, congested, and feeling miserable from a common cold?


If you are sniffling, sneezing, and have a sore throat you may be coming down with the common cold. You are contagious 2-3 days before symptoms appear, and until all symptoms have gone. You’ll probably feel miserable. With a cold, you won’t get much work done, and you'll get well faster if you get some rest. Don't be generous with your germs. Keep your cold to yourself, and stay at home, if possible.

If you are sniffling and sneezing but feel fine otherwise, and these symptoms are persistent, you may have allergies. With allergies, you can go to work. But you may want to see your doctor or an allergy specialist to find out what's triggering your allergies.

Allergy symptoms can rob you of your quality of life, especially when they occur day after day. If necessary, an allergy specialist can do allergy tests to find out your allergy triggers. Your allergy specialist may then recommend allergen avoidance techniques.

Chilled and sweating

Got a fever? If your clothes are getting drenched, you are highly likely to be running a fever. Drink more fluids and consider seeking medical advice, especially if your temperature is over 39C (102F). That could be a sign that you have flu. Stay away from work - and friends - until you feel better.

If you have a temperature plus white patches on your tonsils, you may have strep throat. Strep throat is highly contagious and you may need antibiotics. Seek medical advice.


If you've got a tickle in the back of your throat or it feels as if you have postnasal drip, your cough is probably from allergies or the common cold. But unless you've got other symptoms such as aches and raised temperature, get dressed and go to work!

If you've had a cold for a few days and are now coughing up darker yellow mucus, it's still probably just a cold. If you continue to cough up dark mucus after a week or more, it's a good idea to seek medical advice. If the cough feels deep and makes you feel short of breath, it's probably more than a common cold. These may be signs of something more serious such as bronchitis or pneumonia, so seek medical advice promptly. Stay at home from work.

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