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Common Cold: Too Sick to Work?

While you can try to run 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 sick with the common cold, we're not very productive. In fact, lost productivity on the job accounts for up to 60% of employer health costs -- more than if the sick employees had taken a sick day.

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

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Sniffling

If you are sniffling but not achy or feverish and feel fine otherwise, you probably have allergies. With allergies, you can go to work. Several over the counter options exist for treatment of mild allergies. Some medications which often cause sleepiness are: diphenhydramine or chlorpheniramine; medications with less of this side effect include loratidine and cetirizine. if your symptoms are severe or do not improve with antihistamines, you might want to see an allergist to find out what's triggering your allergies.

 Allergy symptoms can rob you of quality of life, especially when they occur day after day. Your allergist can do allergy tests to find out your allergy triggers. Your allergist may then recommend allergy shots (immunotherapy) to help decrease your allergy symptoms.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's Allergy or Cold Symptoms?

Chills and Sweats

If your clothes are getting drenched, you most likely have a fever. Drink more fluids and consider seeing your doctor, especially if your fever is over 102 degrees F. That could be a sign that you have the flu. Stay away from work -- and friends -- until you feel better.

If you have a fever plus white patches on your tonsils, you may have strep throat. Strep throat is highly contagious and you may need an antibiotic. Call your doctor for a strep test.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's Sore Throat: Cold, Strep Throat, or Tonsillitis?

Coughing

If you've got a tickle in the back of your throat or it feels like you have postnasal drip, your cough is probably from allergies or the common cold. But unless you've got other common cold symptoms such as aches or fever, 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, it's a good idea to see your doctor. 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 call your doctor immediately. Stay home from work.

For more information, see WebMD's When a Cold Becomes Bronchitis.

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