Too Sick to Work?
How sick is too sick to go to work? Advice on when you should just stay home.
Too Sick to Work: Staph Skin Infections
You see an ugly boil on your skin and wonder if a spider bit you. As the
abscess becomes redder and more swollen and painful, you visit your doctor and
discover that you have a staph skin infection, or perhaps even
methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Thanks to scary headlines about MRSA, “people panic when they hear the term
‘staph,’” Haynes says. But “the community-acquired staph aureus infections are
much less troublesome than ones that somebody might pick up in a hospital,” she
Community-acquired staph infections are also more easily treatable. In rare
cases, though, they can become more serious, invasive infections, so it’s
crucial to bring any skin abscesses or boils to your doctor’s attention.
Although MRSA should be taken seriously, “It’s not like if somebody tells
you that you have a staph infection that you’re going to die,” Haynes says. The
infection can be treated.
Nor does an MRSA infection automatically rule out going to work.
MRSA is most frequently transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact or by
sharing contaminated items, such as towels or uniforms. “It’s only a problem if
there’s a break in the skin, which becomes an entry for infection,” Haynes
The bottom line: Check with your doctor about going back to work. If your
doctor gives you the OK, keep the affected area bandaged and wash your hands
frequently while you’re at work. Someone with MRSA should avoid going back to
work if the pus and wound drainage can’t be completely contained under a clean
dry bandage, the CDC says, or if the worker can’t maintain “good hygiene
practices,” such as keeping hands clean and declining to share personal items.
As a further precaution, if you have an active MRSA infection, avoid any
activities that could expose coworkers to skin-to-skin contact with the
infected area until it’s healed.
“Remember, it’s a contact problem,” Haynes says. “If you sit at a computer
and don’t have contact with anybody else, you probably could go to work.”