Sick couple in bed
Sickness is extremely common in the winter months, but your sniffles and fever could be caused by a number of different viruses. Learn everything you should know about winter bugs, how to identify them, and when you should stay home from work. 
 
How do I know if I have a common cold or the flu? 
 
Although cold and flu viruses share similar symptoms—like sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches—cold symptoms tend to escalate over time. You may have nasal congestion or a runny nose for a few days before a cough or a fever develops. 
 
In contrast, flu symptoms begin suddenly. You can go from feeling fine one minute to feeling terrible the next. If you think that you have the flu, call your doctor, who may prescribe antiviral medications like Tamiflu® to provide symptom relief.
 
How can I tell if my sore throat is strep throat? 
 
One common symptom of a cold is a sore throat. However, a sore throat can also be a sign of more severe conditions. One of these conditions is strep throat. Caused by an infection with streptococcus bacteria, strep throat is highly contagious and can easily spread when someone sneezes or coughs. 
 
People with strep throat will develop specific symptoms within about three days. These symptoms include:
 
Red and white patches in the throat
Trouble swallowing
Tender or swollen glands in the neck
Enlarged, red tonsils
 
You may also have a headache, lower stomach pain, fever, loss of appetite or nausea. You can also have difficulty swallowing. If you have these symptoms, especially if they aren’t accompanied by signs of a cold like a runny nose, call your primary care provider for a strep test.
 
How do I know if I should stay home from work?
 
It can be tempting to “power through” a winter bug and go to work, but all employees should stay home if they are sick. One of the best ways to stop the spread of flu and other winter bugs is by keeping sick people away from those that are healthy. 
 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that those with the flu stay home from work for at least four to five days after the flu symptoms began. For other winter bugs, be sure to stay home at least 24 hours after the fever has gone down without the help of fever-reducing medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. 
 
Think you have a winter bug? Find a primary care doctor near you.