5 questions about workplace illness
Dr. John Shufeldt | CEO MeMD, LLC
Is there a difference between people who don’t feel well and think they can work, and those who can’t?
The difference is probably simply a person’s tolerance to adversity and attitude. I have seen people with the sniffles call in sick for work and others with very significant acute medical conditions report for duty requiring a high degree of mental or physical exertion.
In residency and after, the mantra was, “You are either working in the (emergency department) or a patient in the ED.” We simply had a culture of “one for all and all for one.” In those companies which hire and promote an ethos of teamwork, the absenteeism rate due to common, nonserious medical conditions is low.
What would you recommend in terms of working for people who are feeling sick?
Wash your hands, cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, don’t share utensils, take some Tylenol or Advil and see how you feel. If you have high temperature, are short of breath or have persistent vomiting, it is time to be evaluated.
What do you recommend in terms of employers taking the initiative and sending sick employees home?
If an employee cannot perform due to their illness, it is time to send them home.
Can you still get other people sick even after you are on the mend?
The general rule of thumb is to prevent infecting others by washing your hands, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, and not sharing utensils. Getting a flu shot clearly helps lessen the severity and duration of illness. Starting on antivirals within 48 hours of symptoms shortens the duration and intensity as well. You are generally not contagious when your temperature has been normal for 24 hours without anti-pyretics (Tylenol or Advil).
What are the signs to look for that a cold or flu is becoming something more serious?
Things to become concerned about are shortness of breath, altered mental status, persistent temperature of more than 103 degrees, and inability to keep meds or fluids down.