Should You Stay Home When You Are Ill

Symptoms of being sick with the flu or a cold are designed genetically to protect the rest of the population from catching the disease according to researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Their research findings have been published in PLos Biology. This is cold and flu season and individuals wake up daily feeling ill and miserable and wonder if they should take their antivirals and some acetaminophen and tough it out at work?

The study authors note that feeling sick is a multi-system event involving the endocrine system, the nervous system the immune system, the respiratory system and others. They cite the fact that behavior associated with being ill has been preserved over millennia of evolution. They give an example of an infectious illness which causes the patient to isolate themselves from others. While the patient may not survive the illness, the isolation behavior favors them not passing it on to others. Appetite loss prevents the disease from spreading through shared sources of food and water. Fatigue and weakness reduce the sick individuals’ independence and mobility reducing the distance and “radius” of possible infection. Other symptoms such as lost interest in others and less sexual desire and contact also reduce the transmission of disease. They cite changes in body language and personal grooming that send the message, “I am sick! Don’t come near.”

Professor G. Shakhar of the Immunology Department at Weizmann Institute made it clear that despite available medications to ease the symptoms, you are still ill and infectious and should stay home! We routinely advise patients to stay home until their temperature is less than 100.8 for 24 hours. If you have an upper respiratory tract infection with copious nasal discharge and cough related phlegm stay home to prevent getting everyone else at the office ill as well.

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