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Upset stomach? How to Know When You Should Stay Home

November 15, 2018

It’s the time of year when people start to get sick, signaling the rotation of many viral illnesses, including norovirus, which affects the small intestine but is commonly referred to as the “stomach flu.” Whether or not you have children in school, it’s important to be aware of the prevalence of this illness to best protect yourself and those around you.

The tricky thing about gastrointestinal issues is they happen to everyone at some point in their lives, and they don’t always suggest the presence of a virus. For this reason, it can be difficult to determine whether or not the affected person should stay home from work or school.

We can’t always know the difference between norovirus and other things that can upset the stomach, such as food poisoning. However, Paul Levy, DO, general surgeon, says there are some telltale signs that you should stay home.

  • If you have been around others who have been sick, whether it’s friends, neighbors, or your own kids, it’s a good idea to stay home. Noroviruses are highly contagious and can affect people of all ages, so if you have been around another sick person and begin to feel ill, it’s more likely than not that you are contagious.
  • If you have a fever, stay home. “Most run-of-the-mill, feeling off that day type of stomach discomfort won’t have a fever with it,” Dr. Levy says.
  • If stomach pain, nausea, or diarrhea developed over a very short period, it’s very likely you’re dealing with a viral infection, which means calling in sick.

Looking for these three signs as back to school season and the winter months are upon us are the best way to determine if you are too sick to go into work.

“Most of these short-term, recoverable events just happen,” Dr. Levy says. When they do happen, the best way to protect others from the virus is to stay home and heal, which is especially important when working with patients.

And, remember, to avoid norovirus and other illnesses, always wash your hands.

“Almost all of these things are spread by hands, so it’s important to keep them clean,” Dr. Levy says. “Handwashing is one of the strongest prevention methods.”

If you are experiencing persistent gastrointestinal issues and are not able to keep liquids down or have a fever for more than 24 hours, seek medical attention to avoid dehydration.