How Long Should You Stay Home From Work When You Have The Flu? A Lot Of People Head Back Far Too Soon

One of the hottest viral trends of 2018 is this great flu epidemic we have going on. This year's batch is a doozy — the flu this year is considered "moderately severe". The strain is called H3N2, and it's one of the most intense the country has experienced in years. Almost six percent of all Americans who seek medical care have flu symptoms, according to the CDC. People are being advised to take any available cautions to prevent further spread — particularly by staying home when they're ill.

That being said, when you're sneezing up a storm, it can be hard to relax when you're worried about your next paycheck. So how long should you stay home from work when you have the flu?

Several factors determine how long you should refrain from heading back ino the office. According to, you're "contagious within the first day," before symptoms even pop up. And then, by day five to seven after symptoms appear, you are still at risk of contaminating all those around you. Talk about a toxic long-lasting aura.

But another thing is ... we millennials are less mindful of this compared to our older counterparts. According to CBS, in a survey of 1,800 American adults, 75 percent of us ages 18 to 34 admitted to venturing out while sick, compared to only 56 percent of the older demographic. This, unfortunately, puts not only yourself at risk, but everyone you come into contact with.

If you have a fever, rest your burning foreheaded self at home until at least 24 hours after it's gone completely. That's right — not after you just "feel better," but when the fever is actually broken, and you are out of the five to seven day window of contagion. Spare your colleagues and figure out a plan for making up the work later, or work from home if you absolutely can't put it off. And be sure you're keeping tabs on your temperature even when you think the worst it over — even if your fever subsides after you take some meds but then comes back a bit, it's not completely gone, and you are still contagious.


So how long will it take you to get over the flu, then? According to Web MD, how quickly you recover from illness depends on how healthy you are, so hopefully you've been getting plenty of sleep and respecting your body's signals even before the flu hit. In general, healthy people should get over a cold completely in seven to ten days. Flu symptoms should completely go away after about five days, but it's actually pretty common to feel weak a few days longer. Just don't strain yourself, or you'll be in off-on recovery mode for far longer than you anticipated. If your symptoms persist and it's been one to two weeks, let your doctor know.


The scary sitch is: if your health is already at risk, these viruses can develop into illnesses and complications that are much worse than the flu, like pneumonia or inflammation. And you're not the only one at risk — even if you feel "up to" going to work, you're still possibly spreading the flu not just to your healthier friends and coworkers, but to people it may hit a lot harder, like the young, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with preexisting conditions that weaken their immune systems. The flu is not small matter; between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths have occurred annually from the flu since 2010, and this year is no exception. So when in doubt, stay home — not just for your own health, but everyone else's, too.