skip to main content

when should you

stay home with a cold?

It’s a bright sunny day and you’ve got plenty to do. So what’s stopping you? Most of the time, cold symptoms don’t put a halt to your day, but sometimes it’s OK to stay home. Resting the body and feeding it nutritious foods is a great way to get better fast. And if that means treating your cold symptoms with a powerful cold medicine while you’re resting in bed under a blanket, so be it. Your coworkers will thank you, and you’ll feel better sooner.


Cold Symptoms That Should Keep You Home
If you are diligent about hand washing, going to work with mild sniffles, sneezing, or a cough is less risky for spreading germs to your coworkers—especially if you’re taking a cold medicine that relieves your cold symptoms. But you should stay home if:

  • You have a fever
  • You have a bad cough (frequent, loud, painful) that isn’t relieved by a cough suppressant
  • You’re taking a cold medicine that makes you drowsy
  • You’re just too tired or achy to function at work
Where you work and what you do are also factors, of course. If you need to be alert and physically active to work safely, stay home if you’re not fully functioning or are taking a cold medicine that might make you drowsy (look at the drug facts on your medication). If you work with infants, seniors, or anyone with a compromised immune system, protect their health by staying at home until your cold symptoms have gone away.

Can You Cure a Cold?
While you can’t cure your cold with medication, you can treat your symptoms with cold medicines such as cough suppressants, nasal sprays and decongestants, or a sore throat spray. As simple as it sounds, rest is important and effective. Conserving your energy gives your body a chance to recuperate, and staying at home (in bed) means you aren’t exposed to additional germs. Drinking lots of fluids is also important because you need to replace fluids your body is losing through nasal secretions and perspiration (if you have a fever). Skip alcohol and caffeine, because they hasten dehydration. Using a cool-mist humidifier may also help.

If a cold has really laid you low, lasted for 10 days or more, or is accompanied by a persistent high fever, it might have developed into a bacterial secondary infection such as sinusitis that requires antibiotic treatment. In that case, you might want to see a doctor.