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Common Cold: Too Sick to Work?

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If you've got a tickle in the back of your throat or it feels like mucus is dripping into that area from your nose, your cough is probably from allergies or a cold. But unless you've got other symptoms like aches or fever, get dressed and go to work!

If you've been sick for a few days and you now cough up darker yellow mucus, it's still probably just a cold. But if it goes on this way for more than a week, it's a good idea to see your doctor.

If your cough feels deep and makes you short of breath, it's probably more than a common cold. It could be a sign of something more serious, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, so stay at home and call your doctor right away.

For more information, see When a Cold Becomes Bronchitis.


If your ear really hurts and you can't hear well, you could have an ear infection. Getting stuffed up from a cold can also cause pain. Either way, you need to call your doctor to find the cause. He may prescribe an antibiotic or pain-relief medicine.

Ear infections aren't contagious. But if you have cold symptoms along with an earache, you might spread it to someone else during the first 2 to 3 days.

For in-depth information, see Earache: Cold or Ear Infection?

Sinus Pain

If you have pain around your eyes, top of the forehead, cheekbones, and even the top of your teeth, it may be a sign you've got a sinus infection. Go ahead and call in sick.

The next day, you'll probably be able to go to work, since it usually isn't contagious. If you're very sick or your symptoms get worse after a week, call your doctor.

For more information, see When a Cold Becomes a Sinus Infection.


If you wake up with a headache, it may be a cold, especially if you have other symptoms such as sneezing, stuffy nose, and body aches. You may need to stay home a day or two while you're most contagious and feel the worst.

If you have a headache and can't handle noise or light, you may have a migraine and shouldn't be at work. If this is something that happens to you again and again, see a doctor. There are medications that can help.

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